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Full text of "The Art of England. Lectures given in Oxford ... During his second tenure of the Slade Professorship .."

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The Art of England. 



LECTURES GIVEN IN OXFORD, 



BY 

JOHN RUSKIN, D.C.L., LL.D., 

HONORARY STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, AND HONORARY FELLOW OF CORFUS-CHRISTI COLLEGE, 

DURING HIS 

SECOND TENURE OF THE SLADF. PROFESSORSHIP. 



LECTURE I. 

REALISTIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 



GEORGE ALLEN, 
SUNNYSIDE, ORPINGTON, KENT. 

1883. 



LECTURE I. 



REALISTIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 
D. G. Rossetti and W. Holma?i Hunt. 



THE ART OF ENGLAND. 

Lecture I. 

REALISTIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 

D. G. ROSSETTI AND W. HOLMAN HUNT. 

I AM well assured that this audience is too 
kind, and too sympathetic, to wish me 
to enlarge on the mingled feelings of fear and 
thankfulness, with which I find myself once 
again permitted to enter on the duties in which 
I am conscious that before I fell short in too 
many ways ; and in which I only have ventured 
to ask, and to accept, your farther trust, in the 
hope of being able to bring to some of their 
intended conclusions, things not in the nature 
of them, it seems to me, beyond what yet 
remains of an old man's energy ; but, before, 
too eagerly begun, and too irregularly followed. 
And indeed I am partly under the impression, 



2 The Art of England. 

both in gratitude and regret, that Professor 
Richmond's resignation, however justly motived 
by his wish to pursue with uninterrupted thought 
the career open to him in his profession, had 
partly also for its reason the courtesy of con- 
cession to his father's old friend; and his own 
feeling that while yet I was able to be of 
service in advancing the branches of elementary 
art with which I was specially acquainted, it 
was best that I should make the attempt on 
lines already opened, and with the aid of old 
friends. I am now alike comforted in having 
left you, and encouraged in return; for on all 
grounds it was most desirable that to the im- 
perfect, and yet in many points new and untried 
code of practice which I had instituted, the 
foundations of higher study should have been 
added by Mr. Richmond, in connection with 
the methods of art-education recognized in 
the Academies of Europe. And although I 
have not yet been able to consult with him 
on the subject, I trust that no interruption of 
the courses of figure study, thus established, 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 3 

may be involved in the completion, for what 
it is worth, of the system of subordinate 
exercises in natural history and landscape, 
indicated in the schools to which at present, 
for convenience' sake, my name is attached ; 
but which, if they indeed deserve encourage- 
ment, will, I hope, receive it ultimately, as 
presenting to the beginner the first aspects 
of art, in the widest, because the humblest, 
relation to those of divinely organized and 
animated Nature. 

The immediate task I propose to myself is 
to make serviceable, by all the illustration I 
can give them, the now unequalled collection 
possessed by the Oxford schools of Turner 
drawings and sketches, completed as it has 
been by the kindness of the Trustees of the 
National Gallery at the intercession of Prince 
Leopold ; and furnishing the means of progress 
in the study of landscape such as the great 
painter himself only conceived the scope of 
toward the closing period of his life. At 
the opening of next term, I hope, with Mr. 

IA 



4 The Art of England. 

Macdonald's assistance, to have drawn up a 
little synopsis of the elementary exercises which 
in my earlier books have been recommended 
for practice in Landscape,— a subject which, if 
you look back to the courses of my lectures 
here, you will find almost affectedly neglected, 
just because it was my personal province. Other 
matters under deliberation, till I get them either 
done, or determined, I have no mind to talk 
of; but to-day, and in the three lectures which 
I hope to give in the course of the summer 
term, I wish to render such account as is 
possible to me of the vivid phase into which 
I find our English art in general to have 
developed since first I knew it: and, though 
perhaps not without passing deprecation of 
some of its tendencies, to rejoice with you 
unqualifiedly in the honour which may most 
justly be rendered to the leaders, whether passed 
away or yet present with us, of England's 
Modern Painters. 

I may be permitted, in the reverence of 
sorrow, to speak first of my much loved 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 5 

friend, Gabriel Rossetti. But, in justice, no 
less than in the kindness due to death, I 
believe his name should be placed first on 
the list of men, within my own range of 
knowledge, who have raised and changed 
the spirit of modern Art : raised, in absolute 
attainment; changed, in direction of temper. 
Rossetti added to the before accepted systems 
of colour in painting, one based on the 
principles of manuscript illumination, which 
permits his design to rival the most beautiful 
qualities of painted glass, without losing 
either the mystery or the dignity of light 
and shade. And he was, as I believe it is 
now generally admitted, the chief intellectual 
force in the establishment of the modern 
romantic school in England. 

Those who are acquainted with my for- 
mer writings must be aware that I use the 
word c romantic ' always in a noble sense ; 
meaning the habit of regarding the external 
and real world as a singer of Romaunts 
would have regarded it in the middle ages, 



6 The Art of England, 

and as Scott, Burns, Byron, and Tennyson 
have regarded it in our own times. But, as 
Rossetti's colour was based on the former 
art of illumination, so his romance was based 
on traditions of earlier and more sacred 
origin than those which have inspired our 
highest modern romantic literature. That 
literature has in all cases remained strongest 
in dealing with contemporary fact. The 
genius of Tennyson is at its highest in the 
poems of c Maud,' c In Memoriam,' and the 
1 Northern Farmer ' ; but that of Rossetti, as 
of his greatest disciple, is seen only when on 
pilgrimage in Palestine. 

I trust that Mr. Holman Hunt will not 
think that in speaking of him as Rossetti's 
disciple I derogate from the respect due to 
his own noble and determined genius. In 
all living schools it chances often that the 
disciple is greater than his master ; and it 
is always the first sign of a dominant and 
splendid intellect, that it knows of whom to 
learn. Rossetti's great poetical genius justified 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 7 

my claiming for him total, and, I believe, 
earliest, originality in the sternly materialistic, 
though deeply reverent veracity, with which 
alone, of all schools of painters, this brother- 
hood of Englishmen has conceived the cir- 
cumstances of the life of Christ. And if I 
had to choose one picture which represented 
in purity and completeness, this manner of 
their thought, it would be Rossetti's ' Virgin 
in the House of St. John.' 

But when Holman Hunt, under such 
impressive influence, quitting virtually for 
ever the range of worldly subjects, to which 
belonged the pictures of Valentine and Sylvia, 
of Claudio and Isabel, and of the i Awakening 
Conscience,' rose into the spiritual passion 
which first expressed itself in the c Light 
of the World,' an instant and quite final 
difference was manifested between his method 
of conception, and that of his forerunner. 
To Rossetti, the Old and New Testaments 
were only the greatest poems he knew ; 
and he painted scenes from them with no 



8 The Art of England. 

more actual belief in their relation to the 
present life and business of men than he 
gave also to the Morte d' Arthur and the 
Vita Nuova. But to Holman Hunt, the 
story of the New Testament, when once his 
mind entirely fastened on it, became what it 
was to an old Puritan, or an old Catholic 
of true blood, — not merely a Reality, not 
merely the greatest of Realities, but the only 
Reality. So that there is nothing in the 
earth for him any more that does not speak 
of that; — there is no course of thought nor 
force of skill for him, but it springs from 
and ends in that. 

So absolutely, and so involuntarily — I use 
the word in its noblest meaning — is this so 
with him, that in all subjects which fall short 
in the religious element, his power also is 
shortened, and he does those things worst 
which are easiest to other men. 

Beyond calculation, greater, beyond com- 
parison, happier, than Rossetti, in this sin- 
cerity, he is distinguished also from him by 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 9 

a respect for physical and material truth 
which renders his work far more generally, 
far more serenely, exemplary. 

The specialty of colour-method which I 
have signalized in Rossetti, as founded on 
missal painting, is in exactly that degree 
conventional and unreal. Its light is not 
the light of sunshine itself, but of sunshine 
diffused through coloured glass. And in 
object-painting he not only refused, partly 
through idleness, partly in the absolute want 
of opportunity for the study of nature in- 
volved in his choice of abode in a garret at 
Blackfriars, — refused, I say, the natural aid of 
pure landscape and sky, but wilfully perverted 
and lacerated his powers of conception with 
Chinese puzzles and Japanese monsters, until 
his foliage looked generally fit for nothing 
but a fire-screen, and his landscape distances 
like the furniture of a Noah's Ark from the 
nearest toy-shop. Whereas Holman Hunt, in 
the very beginning of his career, fixed his 
mind, as a colourist, on the true representation 



io The Art of England. 

of actual sunshine, of growing leafage, of 
living rock, of heavenly cloud ; and his long 
and resolute exile, deeply on many grounds 
to be regretted both for himself and us, bound 
only closer to his heart the mighty forms and 
hues of God's earth and sky, and the mysteries 
of its appointed lights of the day and of the 
night — opening on the foam — " Of desolate 
seas, in — Sacred — lands forlorn." 

You have, for the last ten or fifteen years, 
been accustomed to see among the pictures 
principally characteristic of the English school, 
a certain average number of attentive studies, 
both of sunshine, and the forms of lower 
nature, whose beauty is meant to be seen by 
its light. Those of Mr. Brett may be named 
with especial praise ; and you probably will 
many of you remember with pleasure the 
study of cattle on a Highland moor in the 
evening, by Mr. Davis, which in last year's 
Academy carried us out, at the end of the first 
room, into sudden solitude among the hills. 
But we forget, in the enjoyment of these 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 1 1 

new and healthy pleasures connected with 
painting, to whom we first owe them all. 
The apparently unimportant picture by 
Holman Hunt, ' The strayed Sheep,' which 
— painted thirty years ago — you may perhaps 
have seen last autumn in the rooms of the 
Art Society in Bond Street, at once achieved 
all that can ever be done in that kind : it 
will not be surpassed — it is little likely to 
be rivalled— by the best efforts of the times 
to come. It showed to us, for the first time 
in the history of art, the absolutely faithful 
balances of colour and shade by which actual 
sunshine might be transposed into a key in 
which the harmonies possible with material 
pigments should yet produce the same im- 
pressions upon the mind which were caused 
by the light itself. 

And remember, all previous work what- 
ever had been either subdued into narrow 
truth, or only by convention suggestive of 
the greater. Claude's sunshine is colourless, 
— only the golden haze of a quiet afternoon; 



1 2 The Art of England. 

— so also that of Cuyp: Turner's, so bold in 
conventionalism that it is credible to few of 
you, and offensive to many. But the pure 
natural green and tufted gold of the herbage 
in the hollow of that little sea-cliff must 
be recognized for true merely by a minute's 
pause of attention. Standing long before the 
picture, you were soothed by it, and raised 
into such peace as you are intended to find 
in the glory and the stillness of summer, 
possessing all things. 

I cannot say of this power of true sun- 
shine, the least thing that I would. Often 
it is said to me by kindly readers, that 
I have taught them to see what they had 
not seen : and yet never — in all the many 
volumes of effort — have I been able to tell 
them my own feelings about what I myself 
see. You may suppose that I have been all 
this time trying to express my personal feel- 
ings about Nature. No ; not a whit. I soon 
found I could not, and did not try to. All 
my writing is only the effort to distinguish 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 13 

what is constantly, and to all men, loveable, 
and if they will look, lovely, from what is 
vile, or empty, — or, to well trained eyes and 
hearts, loathsome ; — but you will never find 
me talking about what / feel, or what / 
think. I know that fresh air is more whole- 
some than fog, and that blue sky is more 
beautiful than black, to people happily born 
and bred. But you will never find, except 
of late, and for special reasons, effort of mine 
to say how I am myself oppressed or com- 
forted by such things. 

This is partly my steady principle, and 
partly it is incapacity. Forms of personal 
feeling in this kind can only be expressed in 
poetry; and I am not a poet, nor in any 
articulate manner could I the least explain to 
you what a deep element of life, for me, is in 
the sight merely of pure sunshine on a bank 
of living grass. 

More than any pathetic music, — yet I love 
music, — more than any artful colour — and yet 
I love colour, — more than other merely material 



14 The Art of. England. 

thing visible to these old eyes, in earth or sky. 
It is so, I believe, with many of you also, — 
with many more than know it of themselves; 
and this picture, were it only the first that cast 
true sunshine on the grass, would have been in 
that virtue sacred : but in its deeper meaning, 
it is, actually, the first of Hunt's sacred 
paintings — the first in which, for those who 
can read, the substance of the conviction and 
the teaching of his after life is written, though 
not distinctly told till afterwards in the sym- 
bolic picture of ( The Scapegoat.' " All we 
like sheep have gone astray, .we have turned 
every one to his own way, and the Lord hath 
laid on Him the iniquity of us all." 

None of you, who have the least acquaint- 
ance with the general tenor of my own 
teaching, will suspect in me any bias towards 
the doctrine of vicarious Sacrifice, as it is 
taught by the modern Evangelical Preacher. 
But the great mystery of the idea of Sacrifice 
itself, which has been manifested as one 
united and solemn instinct by all thoughtful 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 1 5 

and affectionate races, since the wide world 
became peopled, is founded on the secret 
truth of benevolent energy which all men 
who have tried to gain it have learned — that 
you cannot save men from death but by 
facing it for them, nor from sin but by 
resisting it for them. It is, on the contrary, 
the favourite, and the worst falsehood of 
modern infidel morality, that you serve your 
fellow-creatures best by getting a percentage 
out of their pockets, and will best provide 
for starving multitudes by regaling yourselves. 
Some day or other — probably now very soon, 
— too probably by heavy afflictions of the 
State, we shall be taught that it is not so; 
and that all the true good and glory even of 
this world — not to speak of any that is to 
come, must be bought still, as it always has 
been, with our toil, and with our tears. That 
is the final doctrine, the inevitable one, not of 
Christianity only, but of all Heroic Faith and 
Heroic Being; and the first trial questions of 
a true soul to itself must always be, — Have 



1 6 The Art of England, 

I a religion, have I a country, have I a 
love, that I am ready to die for? 

That is the Doctrine of Sacrifice ; the 
faith in which Isaac was bound, in which 
Iphigenia died, in which the great army of 
martyrs have suffered, and by which all vic- 
tories in the cause of justice and happiness 
have been gained by the men who became 
more than conquerors, through Him that 
loved them. 

And yet there is a deeper and stranger 
sacrifice in the system of this creation than 
theirs. To resolute self-denial, and to adopted 
and accepted suffering, the reward is in the 
conscience sure, and in the gradual advance 
and predominance of good, practically and to 
all men visible. But what shall we say of 
involuntary suffering, — the misery of the poor 
and the simple, the agony of the helpless 
and the innocent, and the perishing, as it 
seems, in vain, and the mother weeping for 
the children of whom she knows only that 
they are not ? 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 17 

I saw it lately given as one of the incon- 
trovertible discoveries of modern science, 
that all our present enjoyments were only 
the outcome of an infinite series of pain. I 
do not know how far the statement fairly 
represented — but it announced as incapable of 
contradiction — this melancholy theory. If such 
a doctrine is indeed abroad among you, let 
me comfort some, at least, with its absolute 
denial. That in past aeons, the pain suffered 
throughout the living universe passes calcu- 
lation, is true ; that it is infinite, is untrue ; 
and that all our enjoyments are based on it, 
contemptibly untrue. For, on the other hand, 
the pleasure felt through the living universe 
during past ages is incalculable also, and in 
higher magnitudes. Our own talents, enjoy- 
ments, and prosperities, are the outcome of 
that happiness with its energies, not of the 
death that ended them. So manifestly is this 
so, that all men of hitherto widest reach in 
natural science and logical thought have been 
led to fix their minds only on the innume- 



1 8 The Art of England. 

rable paths of pleasure, and ideals of beauty, 
which are traced on the scroll of creation, 
and are no more tempted to arraign as unjust, 
or even lament as unfortunate, the essential 
equivalent of sorrow, than in the seven-fold 
glories of sunrise to deprecate the mingling of 
shadow with its light. 

This, however, though it has always been 
the sentiment of the healthiest natural philo- 
sophy, has never, as you well know, been 
the doctrine of Christianity. That religion, 
as it comes to us with the promise of a 
kingdom in which there shall be no more 
Death, neither sorrow nor crying, so it has 
always brought with it the confession of 
calamity to be at present in patience of 
mystery endured ; and not by us only, but 
apparently for our sakes, by the lower crea- 
tures, for whom it is inconceivable that any 
good should be the final goal of ill. To- 
wards these, the one lesson we have to learn 
is that of pity. For all human loss and pain, 
there is no comfort, no interpretation worth 



i". Rossetti and Holman Hunt, 19 

a thought, except only in the doctrine of the 
Resurrection; — of which doctrine, remember, 
it is an immutable historical fact that all the 
beautiful work, and all the happy existence 
of mankind, hitherto, has depended on, or 
consisted in, the hope of it. 

The picture of which I came to-day 
chiefly to speak, as a symbol of that doctrine, 
was incomplete when I saw it, and is so still; 
but enough was done to constitute it the most 
important work of Hunt's life, as yet ; and 
if health is granted to him for its completion, 
it will, both in reality and in esteem, be the 
greatest religious painting of our time. 

You know that in the most beautiful 
former conceptions of the Flight into Egypt, 
the Holy Family were always represented 
as watched over, and ministered to, by at- 
tendant angels. But only the safety and 
peace of the Divine Child and its mother 
are thought of. No sadness or wonder of 
meditation returns to the desolate homes of 
Bethlehem 

2A 



20 The Art of England. 

But in this English picture all the story 
of the escape, as of the flight, is told, in 
fulness of peace, and yet of compassion. 
The travel is in the dead of the night, the 
way unseen and unknown; — but, partly stoop- 
ing from the starlight, and partly floating 
on the desert mirage, move, with the Holy 
Family the glorified souls of the Innocents. 
Clear in celestial light, and gathered into 
child-garlands of gladness, they look to the 
Child in whom they live, and yet, for them 
to die. Waters of the River of Life flow 
before on the sands : the Christ stretches out 
His arms to the nearest of them; — leaning 
from His mother's breast. 

To how many bereaved households may 
not this happy vision of conquered death 
bring in the future, days of peace ! 

I do not care to speak of other virtues 
in this design than those of its majestic 
thought, — but you may well imagine for your- 
selves how the painter's quite separate and, in 
its skill, better than magical, power of giving 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 21 

effects of intense light, has aided the effort 
of his imagination, while the passion of his 
subject has developed in him a swift grace of 
invention which for my own part I never 
recognized in his design till now. I can say 
with deliberation that none even of the most 
animated groups and processions of children 
which constitute the loveliest sculpture of the 
Robbias and Donatello, can more than rival 
the freedom and felicity of motion, or the 
subtlety of harmonious line, in the happy 
wreath of these angel-children. 

Of this picture I came to-day chiefly to 
speak, nor will I disturb the poor impression 
which my words can give you of it by any 
immediate reference to other pictures by our 
leading masters. But it is not, of course, 
among these men of splendid and isolated 
imagination that you can learn the modes of 
regarding common and familiar nature which 
you must be content to be governed by — in 
early lessons. I count myself fortunate, in 
renewing my effort to systematize these, that 



22 The Art of England. 

I can now place in the schools, or at least 
lend, first one and then another — some exem- 
plary drawings by young people — youths and 
girls of your own age — clever ones, yes,— but 
not cleverer than a great many of you : — 
eminent only, among the young people of the 
present day whom I chance to know, in 
being extremely old-fashioned ; — and, — don't 
be spiteful when I say so, — but really they all 
are, all the four of them— two lads and two 
lassies — quite provokingly good. 

Lads, not exactly lads perhaps — one of 
them is already master of the works in the 
ducal palace at Venice ; lassies, to an old 
man of sixty-four, who is vexed to be beaten 
by them in his own business — a little older, 
perhaps, than most of the lassies here, but 
still brightly young ; and, mind you, not 
artists, but drawing in the joy of their hearts 
— and the builder at Venice only in his play- 
time — yet, I believe you will find these, and 
the other drawings I speak of, more helpful, 
and as I just said, exemplary, than any I 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 23 

have yet been able to find for you ; and of 
these, little stories are to be told, which bear 
much on all that I have been most earnestly 
trying to make you assured of, both in art 
and in real life. 

Let me, however, before going farther, 
say, to relieve your minds from unhappily too 
well-grounded panic, that I have no intention 
of making my art lectures any more one- 
half sermons. All the pieces of theological 
or other grave talk which seemed to me a 
necessary part of my teaching here, have been 
already spoken, and printed ; and are, I only 
fear at too great length, legible. Nor have I 
any more either strength or passion to spare 
in matters capable of dispute. I must in 
silent resignation leave all of you who are 
led by your fancy, or induced by the fashion 
of the time, to follow, without remonstrance 
on my part, those modes of studying organic 
beauty for which preparation must be made 
by depriving the animal under investigation 
first of its soul within, and secondly of its 



24 The Art of England, 

skin without. But it chances to-day, that the 
merely literal histories of the drawings which 
I bring with me to show you or to lend, 
do carry with them certain evidences of the 
practical force of religious feeling on the 
imagination, both in artists and races, such as 
I cannot, if I would, overlook, and such as 
I think you will yourselves, even those who 
have least sympathy with them, not without 
admiration recognise. 

For a long time I used to say, in all my 
elementary books, that, except in a graceful 
and minor way, women could not paint or 
draw. I am beginning, lately, to bow myself 
to the much more delightful conviction that 
nobody else can. How this very serious change 
of mind was first induced in me it is, if not 
necessary, I hope pardonable, to delay you by 
telling. 

When I was at Venice in 1876 — it is 
almost the only thing that makes me now 
content in having gone there, — two English 
ladies, mother and daughter, were staying at 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 25 

the same hotel, the Europa. One day the 
mother sent me a pretty little note asking if 
I would look at the young lady's drawings. 
On my somewhat sulky permission, a few were 
sent, in which I saw there was extremely 
right-minded and careful, work, almost totally 
without knowledge. I sent back a request 
that the young lady might be allowed to 
come out sketching with me. I took her 
over into the pretty cloister of the church of 
La Salute, and set her, for the first time in 
her life, to draw a little piece of gray marble 
with the sun upon it, rightly. She may have 
had one lesson after that — she may have had 
two ; the three, if there were three, seem to 
me, now, to have been only one ! She seemed 
to learn everything the instant she was shown it 
— and ever so much more than she was taught. 
Next year she went away to Norway, on one 
of these frolics which are now-a-days necessary 
to , girl-existence ; and brought back a little 
pocket-book, which she thought nothing of, 
and which I begged of her: and have framed 



26 The Art of England. 

half a dozen leaves of it (for a loan to you, 
only, mind,) till you have enough copied them. 
Of the minute drawings themselves, I 
need not tell you — for you will in examining 
them, beyond all telling, feel, that they are 
exacdy what we should all like to be able to 
do ; and in the plainest and frankest manner 
show us how to do it — or, more modestly 
speaking, how, if heaven help us, it can be 
done. They can only be seen, as you see 
Bewick vignettes, with a magnifying glass, 
and they are patterns to you therefore only 
of pocket-book work; but what skill is more 
precious to a traveller than that of minute, 
instantaneous, and unerring record of the 
things that are precisely best? For in this, 
the vignettes upon these leaves differ, widely 
as the arc of heaven, from the bitter truths of 
Bewick. Nothing is recorded here but what 
is lovely and honourable: how much there is 
of both in the peasant life of Norway, many 
an English traveller has recognized; but not 
always looking for the cause or enduring the 



I. Rossetti and Holman Hunt, 27 

conclusion, that its serene beauty, its hospitable 
patriotism, its peaceful courage, and its happy 
virtue, were dependent on facts little resem- 
bling our. modern English institutions; — namely, 
that the Norwegian peasant "is a free man 
on the scanty bit of ground which he has 
inherited from his forefathers ; that the Bible 
is to be found in every hut; that the school- 
master wanders from farm to farm; that no 
Norwegian is confirmed who does not know 
how to read; and no Norwegian is allowed 
to marry who has not been confirmed." I 
quote straightforwardly, (missing only some talk 
of Parliaments ; but not caring otherwise how 
far the sentences are with my own notions, 
or against,) from Dr. Hartwig's collected de- 
scriptions of the Polar world. I am not 
myself altogether sure of the wisdom of 
teaching everybody to read : but might be 
otherwise persuaded if here, as in Norway, 
every town had its public library, " while in 
many districts the peasants annually contribute 
a dollar towards a collection of books, which, 



28 The Art of England. 

under the care of the priest, are lent out to 
all comers." 

I observe that the word c priest ' has of late 
become more than ever offensive to the popular 
English mind; and pause only to say that in 
whatever capacity, or authority, the essential 
function of a public librarian must in every 
decent and rational country be educational ; 
and consist in the choosing, for the public, 
books authoritatively or essentially true, free 
from vain speculation or evil suggestion : and 
in noble history or cheerful fancy, to the 
utmost, entertaining. 

One kind of periodical literature, it seems 
to me as I study these drawings, must at all 
events in Norway be beautifully forbidden, — 
the " Journal des Modes." You will see evi- 
dence here that the bright fancying alike of 
maidens' and matrons' dress, capable of prettiest 
variation in its . ornament, is yet ancestral in 
its form, and the white caps, in their daily 
purity, have the untroubled constancy, of the 
seashell and the snow. 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 29 

Next to these illustrations of Norwegian 
economy, I have brought you a drawing of 
deeper and less imitable power: it is by a girl 
of quite peculiar gift, whose life has hitherto 
been spent in quiet and unassuming devotion 
to her art, and to its subjects. I would fain 
have said, an English girl, but all my preju- 
dices have lately had the axe laid to their 
roots one by one, — she is an American ! But 
for twenty years she has lived with her mother 
among the peasants of Tuscany — under their 
olive avenues in summer — receiving them, as 
they choose to come to chat with her, in 
her little room by Santa Maria Novella in 
Florence during winter. They come to her 
as their loving guide, and friend, and sister 
in all their work, and pleasure, and — suffering. 
I lean on the last word. 

For those of you who have entered into 
the heart of modern Italy know that there is 
probably no more oppressed, no more afflicted 
order of gracious and blessed creatures — God's 
own poor, who have not yet received their 



30 The Art of England. 

consolation, than the mountain peasantry of 
Tuscany and Romagna. What their minds 
are, and what their state, and what their 
treatment, those who do not know Italy may 
best learn, if they can bear the grief of 
learning it, from Ouida's photographic story 
of £ A Village Commune'; yet amidst all this, 
the sweetness of their natural character is 
undisturbed, their ancestral religious faith 
unshaken - — their purity and simplicity of 
household life uncorrupted. They may perish, 
by our neglect or our cruelty, but they can- 
not be degraded. Among them, as I have 
told you, this American girl has lived — 
from her youth up, with her (now widowed) 
mother, who is as eagerly, and which is the 
chief matter, as sympathizingly benevolent as 
herself. The peculiar art gift of the younger 
lady is rooted in this sympathy, the gift of 
truest expression of feelings serene in their 
Tightness; and a love of beauty — divided 
almost between the peasants and the flowers 
that live round Santa Maria del Fiore. This 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 31 

power she has trained by its limitation, severe, 
and in my experience unexampled, to work 
in light and shade only, with the pure pen 
line : but the total strength of her intellect 
and fancy being concentrated in this engraver's 
method, it expresses of every subject what 
she loves best, in simplicity undebased by 
any accessory of minor emotion. 

She has thus drawn, in faithfullest por- 
traiture of these peasant Florentines, the love- 
liness of the young and the majesty of the 
aged : she has listened to their legends, written 
down their sacred songs ; and illustrated, with 
the sanctities of mortal life, their traditions of 
immortality. 

I have brought you only one drawing 
to-day ; in the spring I trust you shall have 
many, — but this is enough, just now. It is 
drawn from memory only, but the fond 
memory which is as sure as sight — it is the 
last sleep from which she waked on this 
earth, of a young Florentine girl, who had 
brought heaven down to earth, as truly as 



32 The Art of England. 

ever saint of old, while she lived, and of 
whom even I, who never saw her, cannot 
believe that she is dead. Her friend, who 
drew this memorial of her, wrote also the 
short story of her life, which I trust you 
will soon be able to read. 

Of this, and of the rest of these draw- 
ings, I have much to say to you ; but this 
first and last, — that they are representations of 
beautiful human nature, such as could only 
have been found among people living in the 
pure Christian faith — such as it was, and is, 
since the twelfth century ; and that although, 
as I said, I have returned to Oxford only to 
teach you technical things, this truth must 
close the first words, as it must be the sum 
of all that I may be permitted to speak to 
you, — that the history of the art of the Greeks 
is the eulogy of their virtues ; and the history 
of Art after the fall of Greece, is that of the 
Obedience and the Faith of Christianity. 

There are two points of practical import- 
ance which I must leave under your con- 



/. Rossetti and Holman Hunt. 33 

sideration. I am confirmed by Mr. Macdonald 
in my feeling that some kind of accurately 
testing examination is necessary to give con- 
sistency and efficiency to the present drawing- 
school. I have therefore determined to give 
simple certificates of merit, annually, to the 
students who have both passed through the 
required course, and at the end of three 
years have produced work satisfactory to Mr. 
Macdonald and myself. After Easter, I will 
at once look over such drawings as Mr. 
Macdonald thinks well to show me, by 
students who have till now complied with 
the rules of the school ; and give certificates 
accordingly ; — henceforward, if my health is 
spared, annually : and I trust that the advan- 
tage of this simple and uncompetitive exami- 
nation will be felt by succeeding holders of 
the Slade Professorship, and in time commend 
itself enough to be held as a part of the 
examination system of the University. 

Uncompetitive, always. The drawing cer- 
tificate will imply no compliment, and convey 

3 



34 The Art of England, 

no distinction. It will mean merely that the 
student who obtains it knows perspective, with 
the scientific laws of light and colour in 
illustrating form, and has attained a certain 
proficiency in the management of the pencil. 

The second point is of more importance 
and more difficulty. 

I now see my way to making the col- 
lection of examples in the schools, quite 
representative of all that such a series ought 
to be. But there is extreme difficulty in 
finding any books that can be put into the 
hands of the home student which may supply 
the place of an academy. I do not mean 
merely as lessons in drawing, but in the for- 
mation of taste, which, when we analyse it, 
means of course merely the right direction of 
feeling. 

I hope that in many English households 
there may be found already — I trust some 
day there may be found wherever there are 
children who can enjoy them, and especially 
in country village schools — the three series of 



I. Rossetti and Holman Hunt, 35 

designs by Ludwig Richter, in illustration of 
the Lord's Prayer, of the Sunday, and of the 
Seasons. Perfect as types of easy line drawing, 
exquisite in ornamental composition, and refined 
to the utmost in ideal grace, they represent 
all that is simplest, purest, and happiest in 
human life, all that is most strengthening 
and comforting in nature and in religion. 
They are enough, in themselves, to show that 
whatever its errors, whatever its backslidings, 
this century of ours has in its heart understood 
and fostered, more than any former one, the 
joys of family affection, and of household 
piety. 

For the former fairy of the woods, Richter 
has brought to you the angel on the threshold; 
for the former promises of distant Paradise, 
he has brought the perpetual blessing, " God 
be with you": amidst all the turmoil and 
speeding to and fro, and wandering of heart 
and eyes which perplex our paths, and betray 
our wills, he speaks to us continuous memorial 
of the message — " My Peace I leave with you." 



The Art of England. 



LECTURES GIVEN IN OXFORD, 



BY 

JOHN RUSKIN, D.C.L., LL.D., 

HONORARY STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, AND HONORARY FELLOW OF CORPUS-CHRISTI COLLEGE, 

DURING HIS 

SECOND TENURE OF THE SLADE PROFESSORSHIP. 



LECTURE II. 

MYTHIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 



GEORGE ALLEN, 
SUNNYSIDE, ORPINGTON, KENT. 

1883. 



LECTURE II. 



MYTHIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 
E. Burne- Jones and G. F. Watts, 



Lecture II. 
MYTHIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 

E. BURNE-JONES AND G. F. WATTS. 

IT is my purpose, in the lectures I may 
be permitted henceforward to give in 
Oxford, so to arrange them as to dispense 
with notes in subsequent printing ; and, if I 
am forced for shortness, or in oversight, to leave 
anything insufficiently explained, to complete 
the passage in the next following lecture, or 
in any one, though after an interval, which 
may naturally recur to the subject. Thus the 
printed text will always be simply what I have 
read, or said ; and the lectures will be more 
closely and easily connected than if I went 
always on without the care of explanatory 
retrospect. 

It may have been observed, and perhaps 
with question of my meaning,, by some readers, 



40 The Art of England. 

that in my last lecture I used the word 
"materialistic" of the method of conception 
common to Rossetti and Hunt, with the 
greater number of their scholars. I used that 
expression to denote their peculiar tendency 
to feel and illustrate the relation of spiritual 
creatures to the substance and conditions of the 
visible world; more especially, the familiar, or 
in a sort humiliating, accidents or employ- 
ments of their earthly life; — as, for instance, 
in the picture I referred to, Rossetti's Virgin 
in the house of St. John, the Madonna's being 
drawn at the moment when she rises to trim 
their lamp. In many such cases, the incidents 
may of course have symbolical meaning, as, 
in the unfinished drawing by Rossetti of the 
Passover, which I have so long left with you, 
the boy Christ is watching the blood struck 
on the doorpost; — but the peculiar value and 
character of the treatment is in what I called 
its material veracity, compelling the spectator's 
belief, if he have the instinct of belief in him 
at all, in the thing's having verily happened ; 



//. Burne-Jones and JVatts. 41 

and not being a mere poetical fancy. If 
the spectator, on the contrary, have no 
capacity of belief in him, the use of such 
representation is in making him detect his 
own incredulity, and recognize that in his 
former dreamy acceptance of the story, he 
had never really asked himself whether these 
things were so. 

Thus, in what I believe to have been in 
actual time the first — though I do not claim 
for it the slightest lead in suggestive influence, 
yet the first dated example of such literal and 
close realization — my own endeavour in the 
third volume of c Modern Painters ' to describe 
the incidents preceding the charge to Peter, I 
have fastened on the words, " He girt his 
fisher's coat about him, and did cast himself 
into the sea," following them out with, "Then 
to Peter, all wet and shivering, staring at 
Christ in the sun;" not in the least supposing 
or intending any symbolism either in the 
coat, or the dripping water, or the morning 
sunshine ; but merely and straitly striving to 



42 The Art of England, 

put the facts before the readers' eyes as 
positively as if he had seen the thing come 
to pass on Brighton beach, and an English 
fisherman dash through the surf of it to the 
feet of his captain, — once dead, and now with 
the morning brightness on his face. 

And you will observe farther, that this way 
of thinking about a thing compels, with a 
painter, also a certain way of painting it. I 
do not mean a necessarily close or minute way, 
but a necessarily complete, substantial, and 
emphatic one. The thing may be expressed 
with a few fierce dashes of the pencil ; but it 
will be wholly and bodily there ; it may be 
in the broadest and simplest terms, but nothing 
will be hazy or hidden, nothing clouded round, 
or melted away : and all that is told will be 
as explanatory and lucid as may be — as of a 
thing examined in daylight, not dreamt of in 
moonlight. 

I must delay you a little, though perhaps 
tiresomely, to make myself well understood 
on this point ; for the first celebrated pictures 



//. Burne-yones and Watts. 43 

of the pre-Raphaelite school having been 
extremely minute in finish, you might easily 
take minuteness for a speciality of the style, 
—but it is not so in the least. Minuteness I 
do somewhat claim, for a quality insisted upon 
by myself, and required in the work of my 
own pupils; it is — at least in landscape — 
Turnerian and Ruskinian — not pre-Raphaelite 
at all : — the pre-Raphaelism common to us all 
is in the frankness and honesty of the touch, 
not in its dimensions. 

I think I may, once for all, explain this 
to you, and convince you of it, by asking 
you, when you next go up to London, to 
look at a sketch by Vandyke in the National 
Gallery, No. 680, purporting to represent 
this very scene I have been speaking of, — 
the miraculous draught of fishes. It is one 
of the too numerous brown sketches in the 
manner of the Flemish School, which seem to 
me always rather done for the sake of wiping 
the brush clean than of painting anything. 
There is no colour in it, and no light and 



44 e Fh e ^ rt °f England. 

shade ; — but a certain quantity of bitumen is 
rubbed about so as to slip more or less greasily 
into the shape of figures ; and one of St. John's 
(or St. James's) legs is suddenly terminated by 
a wriggle of white across it, to signify that 
he is standing in the sea. Now that was the 
kind of work of the Dutch School, which I 
spent so many pages in vituperating throughout 
the first volume of 'Modern Painters' — pages, 
seemingly, vain to this day ; for still, the 
brown daubs are hung in the best rooms of 
the National Gallery, and the loveliest Turner 
drawings are nailed to the wall of its cellar, — 
and might as well be buried at Pompeii for 
any use they are to the British public ; — but, 
vain or effectless as the said chapters may 
be, they are altogether true in that firm 
statement, that these brown flourishes of the 
Dutch brush are by men who lived, virtually, 
the gentle, at court, — the simple, in the 
pothouse; and could indeed paint, according 
to their habitation, a nobleman or a boor, 
but were not only incapable of conceiving, 



II. Burne-Jones and Watts. 45 

but wholly unwishful to conceive, anything, 
natural or supernatural, beyond the precincts 
of the Presence and the tavern. So that 
they especially failed in giving the life and 
beauty of little things in lower nature ; and 
if, by good hap, they may sometimes more or 
less succeed in painting St. Peter the Fisher's 
face, never by any chance realize for you the 
green wave dashing over his feet. 

Now, therefore, understand of the opposite 
so called 'Pre-Raphaelite,' and, much more, 
pre-Rubensite, society, that its primary virtue 
is the trying to conceive things as they 
are, and thinking and feeling them quite 
out: — believing joyfully if we may, doubting 
bravely, if we must, — but never mystifying, 
or shrinking from, or choosing for argu- 
ment's sake, this or that fact; but giving 
every fact its own full power, and every 
incident and accessory its own true place, — 
so that, still keeping to our illustrations from 
Brighton or Yarmouth beach, in that most 
noble picture by Millais which probably 



46 The Art of England, 

most of you saw last autumn in London, the 
'Caller Herrin',' — picture which, as a piece 
of art, I should myself put highest of all yet 
produced by the Pre-Raphaelite school; — in 
that most noble picture, I say, the herrings 
were painted just as well as the girl, and 
the master was not the least afraid that, 
for all he could do to them, you would 
look at the herrings first. 

Now then, I think I have got the manner 
of Pre-Raphaelite c Realization ' — ' Verification - 
— ' Materialization ' — or whatever else you 
choose to call it, positively enough asserted 
and defined : and hence you will see that it 
follows, as a necessary consequence, that Pre- 
Raphaelite subjects must usually be of real 
persons in a solid world — not of personifi- 
cations in a vaporescent one. 

The persons may be spiritual, but they 
are individual, — St. George, himself, not the 
vague idea of Fortitude ; St. Cecily herself, 
not the mere power of music. And, although 
spiritual, there is no attempt whatever made 



II. Bume-yones and Watts. 47 

by this school to indicate their immortal nature 
by any evanescence or obscurity of aspect. 
All transparent ghosts and unoutlined spectra 
are the work of failing imagination, — rest 
you sure of that. Botticelli indeed paints 
the Favonian breeze transparent, but never 
the angel Gabriel ; and in the picture I was 
telling you of in last lecture, — it there be a 
fault which may jar for a moment on your 
feelings when you first see it, I am afraid it 
will be that the souls of the Innocents are a 
little too chubby, and one or two of them, I 
should say, just a dimple too fat. 

And here I must branch for a moment 
from the direct course of my subject, to 
answer another question which may by this 
time have occurred to some of my hearers, 
how, if this school be so obstinately realistic, 
it can also be characterized as romantic. 

When we have concluded our review of 
the present state of English art, we will 
collect the general evidence of its romance ; 
meantime, I will say only this much, for you 



48 The Art of England, 

to think out at your leisure, that romance 
does not consist in the manner of represent- 
ing or relating things, but in the kind of 
passions appealed to by the things related. 
The three romantic passions are those by 
which you are told, in Wordsworth's aphor- 
istic line, that the life of the soul is fed. 

"We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love." 
Admiration, meaning primarily all the forms 
of Hero Worship, and secondarily, the kind 
of feeling towards the beauty of nature, which 
I have attempted too feebly to analyze in the 
second volume of ' Modern Painters ' ; — Hope, 
meaning primarily the habit of mind in which 
we take present pain for the sake of future 
pleasure, and expanding into the hope of 
another world; — and Love, meaning of course 
whatever is happiest or noblest in the life 
either of that world or this. 

Indicating, thus briefly, what, though not 
always consciously, we mean by Romance, I 
proceed with our present subject of enquiry, 
from which I branched at the point where it 



//. Burne~yones and Watts. 49 

had been observed that the realistic school 
could only develope its complete force in 
representing persons, and could not happily 
rest in personifications. Nevertheless, we find 
one of the artists whose close friendship with 
Rossetti, and fellowship with other members 
of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, have more 
or less identified his work with theirs, yet 
differing from them all diametrically in this, 
that his essential gift and habit of thought 
is in personification, and that, — for sharp 
and brief instance, had both Rossetti and he 
been set to illustrate the first chapter of 
Genesis, Rossetti would have painted either 
Adam or Eve — but Edward Burne- Jones, a 
Day of Creation. 

And in this gift, he becomes a painter, 
neither of Divine History, nor of Divine 
Natural History, but of Mythology, accepted 
as such, and understood by its symbolic figures 
to represent only general truths, or abstract 
ideas. 

And here I must at once pray you, as I have 



50 The Art of England, 

prayed you to remove all associations of false- 
hood from the word romance, so also to clear 
them out of your faith, when you begin the 
study of mythology. Never confuse a Myth 
with a Lie, — nay, you must even be cautious 
how far you even permit it to be called a fable. 
Take the frequentest and simplest of myths for 
instance — that of Fortune and her wheel. Enid 
does not herself conceive, or in the least intend 
the hearers of her song to conceive, that there 
stands anywhere in the universe a real woman, 
turning an adamantine wheel whose revolutions 
have power over human destiny. She means 
only to assert, under that image, more clearly 
the law of Heaven's continual dealing with 
man, — "He hath put down the mighty from 
their seat, and hath exalted the humble and 
meek." 

But in the imagined symbol, or rather let 
me say, the visiting and visible dream, of this 
law, other ideas variously conducive to its clear- 
ness are gathered ; — those of gradual and 
irresistible motion of rise and fall, — the tide of 



//. Burne-yones and Watts. 51 

Fortune, as distinguished from instant change 
or catastrophe; — those of the connection of the 
fates of men with each other, the yielding and 
occupation of high place, the alternately ap- 
pointed and inevitable humiliation : — and the 
fastening, in the sight of the Ruler of Destiny, 
of all to the mighty axle which moves only as 
the axle of the world. These things are told 
or hinted to you, in the mythic picture, not 
with the impertinence and the narrowness of 
words, nor in any order compelling a mono- 
tonous succession of thought, — but each as 
you choose or chance to read it, to be rested 
in or proceeded with, as you will. 

Here then is the ground on which the 
Dramatic, or personal, and Mythic — or personi- 
fying, schools of our young painters, whether 
we find for them a general name or not, 
must be thought of as absolutely one — that, 
as the dramatic painters seek to show you 
the substantial truth of persons, so the mythic 
school seeks to teach you the spiritual truth 
of myths. 



52 The Art of E?igland. 

Truth is the vital power of the entire 
school, Truth its armour — Truth its war- 
word ; and the grotesque and wild forms of 
imagination which, at first sight, seem to be 
the reaction of a desperate fancy, and a 
terrified faith, against the incisive scepticism 
of recent science, so far from being so, are 
a part of that science itself: they are the 
results of infinitely more accurate scholar- 
ship, of infinitely more detective examination, 
of infinitely more just and scrupulous in- 
tegrity of thought, than was possible to any 
artist during the two preceding centuries ; 
and exactly as the eager and sympathetic 
passion of the dramatic designer now assures 
you of the way in which an event happened, 
so the scholarly and sympathetic thought of 
the mythic designer now assures you of the 
meaning, in what a fable said. 

Much attention has lately been paid by 
archaeologists to what they are pleased to call 
the development of myths : but, for the most 
part, with these two erroneous ideas to begin 



//. Burne-Jones and Watts. 53 

with — the first, that mythology is a temporary 
form of human folly, from which they are 
about in their own perfect wisdom to achieve 
our final deliverance ; the second, that you 
may conclusively ascertain the nature of these 
much-to-be-lamented misapprehensions, by the 
types which early art presents of them ! You 
will find in the first section of my c Queen of 
the Air,' contradiction enough of the first super- 
cilious theory; — though not with enough clear- 
ness the counter statement, that the thoughts 
of all the greatest and wisest men hitherto, 
since the world was made, have been expressed 
through mythology. 

You may find a piece of most convincing 
evidence on this point by noticing that when- 
ever, by Plato, you are extricated from the play 
of logic, and from the debate of points dubitable 
or trivial; and are to be told somewhat of his 
inner thought, and highest moral conviction, — 
that instant you are cast free in the elements 
of phantasy, and delighted by a beautiful myth. 
And I believe that every master here who is 

5 



54 7he Art of England. 

interested, not merely in the history, but in 
the substance, of moral philosophy, will confirm 
me in saying that the direct maxims of the 
greatest sages of Greece, do not, in the sum of 
them, contain a code of ethics either so pure, 
or so practical, as that which may be gathered 
by the attentive interpretation of the myths 
of Pindar and Aristophanes. 

Of the folly of the second notion above- 
named, held by the majority of our students of 
'development' in fable, — that they can estimate 
the dignity of ideas by the symbols used for 
them, in early art; and trace the succession of 
thought in the human mind by the tradition 
of ornament in its manufactures, I have no 
time to-day to give any farther illustration 
than that long since instanced to you, the 
difference between the ideas conveyed by 
Homer's description of the shield of Achilles, 
(much more, Hesiod's of that of Herakles,) and 
the impression which we should receive from 
any actually contemporary Greek art. You 
may with confidence receive the restoration 



//. Burne-jfones and Watts, 55 

of the Homeric shield, given by Mr. A. Murray 
in his history of Greek sculpture, as authorita- 
tively representing the utmost graphic skill which 
could at the time have been employed in the 
decoration of a hero's armour. But the poet 
describes the rude imagery as producing the 
effect of reality, and might praise in the same 
words the sculpture of Donatello or Ghiberti. 
And you may rest entirely satisfied that when 
the surrounding realities are beautiful, the 
imaginations, in all distinguished human in- 
tellect, are beautiful also, and that the forms 
of gods and heroes were entirely noble in 
dream, and in contemplation, long before the 
clay became ductile to the hand of the potter, 
or the likeness of a living body possible in 
ivory and gold. 

And herein you see with what a deeply 
interesting function the modern painter of 
mythology is invested. He is to place, at the 
service of former imagination, the art which 
it had not — and to realize for us, with a 
truth then impossible, the visions described 



56 The Art of England. 

by the wisest of men as embodying their 
most pious thoughts and their most exalted 
doctrines: not indeed attempting with any 
literal exactitude to follow the words of the 
visionary, for no man can enter literally into 
the mind of another, neither can any great 
designer refuse to obey the suggestions of 
his own : but only bringing the resources 
of accomplished art to unveil the hidden 
splendour of old imagination; and showing 
us that the forms of gods and angels which 
appeared in fancy to the prophets and saints 
of antiquity, were indeed more natural and 
beautiful than the black and red shadows on 
a Greek vase, or the dogmatic outlines of 
a Byzantine fresco. 

It should be a ground of just pride to 
all of us here in Oxford, that out of this 
University came the painter whose indefati- 
gable scholarship and exhaustless fancy have 
together fitted him for this task, in a degree 
far distinguishing him above all contemporary 
European designers. It is impossible for the 



//. Burne-Jones a?id Watts. 57 

general public to estimate the quantity of 
careful and investigatory reading, and the 
fine tact of literary discrimination, which are 
signified by the command now possessed by 
Mr. Burne-Jones over the entire range both 
of Northern and Greek mythology, or the 
tenderness at once, and largeness, of sympathy 
which have enabled him to harmonize these 
with the loveliest traditions of Christian legend. 
Hitherto, there has been adversity between the 
schools of classic and Christian art, only in 
part conquered by the most liberal-minded of 
artists and poets : Nicholas of Pisa accepts 
indeed the technical aid of antiquity, but 
with much loss to his Christian sentiment ; 
Dante uses the imagery of iEschylus for the 
more terrible picturing of the Hell to which, 
in common with the theologians of his age, 
he condemned his instructor; but while Minos 
and the Furies are represented by him as 
still existent in Hades, there is no place in 
Paradise for Diana or Athena. Contrariwise, 
the later revival of the legends of antiquity 



58 The Art of Rngla?id. 

meant scorn of those of Christendom. It 
is but fifty years ago that the value of the 
latter was again perceived and represented 
to us by Lord Lindsay : and it is only 
within the time which may be looked back to 
by the greater number even of my younger 
auditors, that the transition of Athenian mytho- 
logy, through Byzantine, into Christian, has 
been first felt, and then traced and proved, by 
the penetrative scholarship of the men belong- 
ing to this Pre-Raphaelite school, chiefly 
Mr. Burne-Jones and Mr. William Morris, — 
noble collaborateurs, of whom, may I be 
forgiven, in passing, for betraying to you a 
pretty little sacredness of their private lite — 
that they solemnly and jovially have break- 
fasted together every Sunday, for many and 
many a year. 

Thus far, then, I am able with security to 
allege to you the peculiar function of this 
greatly gifted and highly trained English 
painter ; and with security also, the function 
of any noble myth, in the teaching, even of 



//. Burne-Jones and Watts. 59 

this practical and positive British race. But 
now, when tor purposes of direct criticism I 
proceed to ask farther in what manner or with 
what precision of art any given myth should be 
presented — instantly we find ourselves involved 
in a group of questions and difficulties which 
I feel to be quite beyond the proper sphere of 
this Professorship. So long as we have only to 
deal with living creatures, or solid substances, 
I am able to tell you— and to show — that they 
are to be painted under certain optical laws 
which prevail in our present atmosphere ; and 
with due respect to laws of gravity and move- 
ment which cannot be evaded in our terrestrial 
constitution. But when we have only an idea 
to paint, or a symbol, I do not feel authorized to 
insist any longer upon these vulgar appearances, 
or mortal and temporal limitations. I cannot 
arrogantly or demonstratively define to you 
how the light should fall on the two sides of 
the nose of a Day of Creation ; nor obstinately 
demand botanical accuracy in the graining of 
the wood employed for the spokes of a Wheel of 



60 The Art of England, 

Fortune. Indeed, so far from feeling justified 
in any such vexatious and vulgar requirements, 
I am under an instinctive impression that 
some kind of strangeness or quaintness, or even 
violation of probability, would be not merely 
admissible, but even desirable, in the delineation 
of a figure intended neither to represent a 
body, nor a spirit, neither an animal, nor a 
vegetable, but only an idea, or an aphorism. 
Let me, however, before venturing one step 
forward amidst the insecure snows and cloudy 
wreaths of the Imagination, secure your confi- 
dence in my guidance, so far as I may gain it 
by the assertion of one general rule of proper 
safeguard ; that no mystery or majesty of 
intention can be alleged by a painter to justify 
him in careless or erroneous drawing of any 
object — so far as he chooses to represent it at 
all. The more license we grant to the audacity 
of his conception, the more careful he should 
be to give us no causeless ground of complaint 
or offence : while, in the degree of importance 
and didactic value which he attaches to his 



II. Bume-jfones and Watts. 61 

parable, will be the strictness of his duty to 
allow no faults, by any care avoidable, to 
disturb the spectator's attention, or provoke 
his criticism. 

I cannot but to this day remember, partly 
with amusement, partly in vexed humiliation, 
the simplicity with which I brought out, 
one evening when the sculptor Marochetti 
was dining with us at Denmark Hill, some 
of the then but little known drawings of 
Rossetti, for his instruction in the beauties of 
Pre-Raphaelitism. 

You may see with the slightest glance at 
the statue of Coeur de Lion, (the only really 
interesting piece of historical sculpture we have 
hitherto given to our City populace), that 
Marochetti was not only trained to perfectness 
of knowledge and perception in the structure 
of the human body, but had also peculiar 
delight in the harmonies of line which express 
its easy and powerful motion. Knowing a 
little more both of men and things now, 
than I did on the evening in question, I 



62 The Art of England. 

too clearly apprehend that the violently 
variegated segments and angular anatomies of 
Sir Lancelot at the grave of King Arthur must 
have produced on the bronze-minded sculptor 
simply the effect of a Knave of Clubs and 
Queen of Diamonds ; and that the Italian 
master, in his polite confession of inability 
to recognize the virtues of Rossetti, cannot but 
have greatly suspected the sincerity of his 
entertainer, in the profession of sympathy 
with his own. 

No faults, then, that we can help, — this 
we lay down for certain law to start with ; 
therefore, especially, no ignoble faults, of 
mere measurement, proportion, perspective, 
and the like, may be allowed to art which 
is by claim, learned and magistral ; therefore 
bound to be, in terms, grammatical. And 
yet we are not only to allow, but even to 
accept gratefully, any kind of strangeness 
and deliberate difference from merely realistic 
painting, which may raise the work, not only 
above vulgarity, but above incredulity. For 



//. Burne-yones and Watts, 63 

it is often by realizing it most positively that 
we shall render it least credible. 

For instance, in the prettiest design of 
the series, by Richter, illustrating the Lord's 
Prayer, which I asked you in my last lecture 
to use for household lessons; — that of the 
mother giving her young children their dinner 
in the field which their father is sowing, — 
one of the pieces of the enclosing arabesque 
represents a little winged cherub emergent 
from a flower, holding out a pitcher to a 
bee, who stoops to drink. The species of 
bee is not scientifically determinable ; the 
wings of the tiny servitor terminate rather in 
petals than plumes ; and the unpretentious 
jug suggests nothing of the clay of Dresden, 
Sevres, or Chelsea. You would not, I think, 
find your children understand the lesson in 
divinity better, or believe it more frankly, 
if the hymenopterous insect were painted so 
accurately that, (to use the old method of 
eulogium on painting,) you could hear it buzz; 
and the cherub completed into the living like- 



64 The Art of England. 

ness of a little boy with blue eyes and red 
cheeks, but of the size of a humming-bird. 
In this and in myriads of similar cases, it is 
possible to imagine from an outline what a 
finished picture would only provoke us to 
deny in contempt. 

Again, in my opening lecture on Light 
and Shade, the sixth of those given in the 
year 1870, I traced in some completeness the 
range of ideas which a Greek vase-painter 
was in the habit of conveying by the mere 
opposition of dark and light in the figures 
and background, with the occasional use of a 
modifying purple. It has always been matter 
of surprise to me that the Greeks rested in 
colours so severe, and I have in several 
places formerly ventured to state my convic- 
tion that their sense of colour was inferior to 
that of other races. Nevertheless, you will 
find that the conceptions of moral and physical 
truth which they were able with these narrow 
means to convey, are far loftier than the utmost 
that can be gathered from the iridescent delicacy 



//. Burne-yones and Watts. 65 

of Chinese design, or the literally imitative 
dexterities of Japan. 

Now, in both these methods, Mr. Burne- 
Jones has developed their applicable powers 
to their highest extent. His outline is the 
purest and quietest that is possible to the 
pencil ; nearly all other masters accentuate 
falsely, or in some places, as Richter, add 
shadows which are more or less conventional. 
But an outline by Burne-Jones is as pure as 
the lines of engraving on an Etruscan mirror ; 
and I placed the series of drawings from the 
story of Psyche in your school as faultlessly 
exemplary in this kind. Whether pleasing or 
displeasing to your taste, they are entirely 
masterful ; and it is only by trying to copy 
these or other such outlines, that you will 
fully feel the grandeur of action in the moving 
hand, tranquil and swift as a hawk's flight, 
and never allowing a vulgar tremor, or a 
momentary impulse, to impair its precision, or 
disturb its serenity. 

Again, though Mr. Jones has a sense of 



66 The Art of England. 

colour, in its kind, perfect, he is essentially 
a chiaroscurist. Diametrically opposed to 
Rossetti, who could conceive in colour only, 
he prefers subjects which can be divested 
of superficial attractiveness, appeal first to the 
intellect and the heart ; and convey their 
lesson either through intricacies of delicate 
line, or in the dimness or coruscation of 
ominous light. 

The heads of Medea and of Danae, which 
I placed in your schools long ago, are repre- 
sentative of all that you need aim at in 
chiaroscuro ; and lately a third type of his 
best work, in subdued pencil light and shade, 
has been placed within your reach in Dr. 
Acland's drawing-room, — the portrait of Miss 
Gladstone, in which you will see the painter's 
best powers stimulated to their utmost, and 
reaching a serene depth' of expression unattain- 
able by photography, and nearly certain to 
be lost in finished painting. 

For there is this perpetually increasing 
difficulty towards the completion of any work, 



//. Burne~yones and Watts. 67 

that the added forces of colour destroy the 
value of the pale and subtle tints or shades 
which give the nobleness to expression ; so 
that the most powerful masters in oil painting 
rarely aim at expression, but only at general 
character — and I believe the great artist whose 
name I have associated with that of Burne- 
Jones as representing the mythic schools, Mr. 
G. F. Watts, has been partly restrained, and 
partly oppressed by the very earnestness and 
extent of the study through which he has 
sought to make his work on all sides perfect. 
His constant reference to the highest examples 
of Greek art in form, and his sensitiveness to 
the qualities at once of tenderness and breadth 
in pencil and chalk drawing, have virtually 
ranked him among the painters of the great 
Athenian days, of whom, in the sixth book 
of the Laws, Plato wrote : — " You know how 
the anciently accurate toil of a painter seems 
never to reach a term that satisfies him ; but 
he must either farther touch, or soften the 
touches laid already, and never seems to reach 



68 The Art of England. 

a point where he has not yet some power to 
do more, so as to make the things he has 
drawn more beautiful, and more apparent. 
koXXlco re Kat (pavepcorepa. 

Of course within the limits of this lecture 
there is no possibility of entering on the 
description of separate pictures ; but I trust 
it may be hereafter my privilege to carry 
you back to the beginning of English historical 
art, when Mr. Watts first showed victorious 
powers of design in the competition for the 
frescoes of the Houses of Parliament — and 
thence to trace for you, in some completeness, 
the code of mythic and heroic story which 
these two artists, Mr. Watts and Mr. Burne- 
Jones, have gathered, and in the most deep 
sense written, for us. 

To-day I have only brought with me a 
few designs by Mr. Burne-Jones, of a kind 
which may be to some extent well repre- 
sented in photograph, and to which I shall 
have occasion to refer in subsequent lectures. 
They are not to be copied, but delighted in, 



//. Burne-Jones and Watts. 69 

by those of you who care for them, — and, 

under Mr. Fisher's care, I shall recommend 

them to be kept out of the way of those 

who do not. They include the Days of 

Creation; three outlines from Solomon's Song; 

two from the Romance of the Rose ; the 

great one of Athena inspiring Humanity; 

and the story of St. George and Sabra. They 

will be placed in a cabinet in the upper 

gallery, together with the new series of 

Turner sketches, and will by no means be 

intruded on your attention, but made easily 

accessible to your wish. 

To justify this monastic treatment of them, 

I must say a few words, in conclusion, of the 

dislike which these designs, in common with 

those of Carpaccio, excite in the minds of most 

English people of a practical turn. A few 

words only, both because this lecture is already 

long enough, and besides, because the point 

in question is an extremely curious one, and 

by no means to be rightly given account of 

in a concluding sentence. The point is, that 

6 



70 The Art of England. 

in the case of ordinary painters, however 
peculiar their manner, people either like them, 
or pass them by with a merciful contempt or 
condemnation, calling them stupid, or weak, 
or foolish, but without any expression of 
real disgust or dislike. But in the case of 
painters of the mythic schools, people either 
greatly like them, or they dislike in a sort 
of frightened and angry way, as if they had 
been personally aggrieved. And the persons 
who feel this antipathy most strongly, are 
often extremely sensible and good, and of 
the kind one is extremely unwilling to offend; 
but either they are not fond of art at all, 
or else they admire, naturally, pictures from 
real life only, such as, to name an extremely 
characteristic example, those of the (I believe, 
Bavarian) painter Vautier, of whom I shall 
have much, in another place, to say in praise, 
but of whom, with the total school he leads, 
I must peremptorily assure my hearers that 
their manner of painting is merely part of our 
general modern system of scientific illustration 



//. Burne-Jones and Watts. 71 

aided by photography, and has no claim to 
rank with works of creative art at all : and 
farther, that it is essentially illiterate, and can 
teach you nothing but what you can easily 
see without the painter's trouble. Here is, 
for instance, a very charming little picture 
of a school girl going to her class, and 
telling her doll to be good till she comes 
back; — you like it, and ought to like it, 
because you see the same kind of incident 
in your own children every day ; but I 
should say, on the whole, you had better 
look at the real children than the picture. 
Whereas, you can't every day at home see 
the goddess Athena telling you yourselves to 
be good, — and perhaps you wouldn't alto- 
gether like to, if you could. 

Without venturing on the rudeness of 
hinting that any such feeling underlies the 
English dislike of didactic art, I will pray 
you at once to check the habit of carelessly 
blaming the things that repel you in early or 
existing religious artists, and to observe, for 



72 The Art of England. 

the sum of what is to be noted respecting 
the four of whom I have thus far ventured 
to speak — Mr. Rossetti, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Jones, 
and Mr. Watts, that they are in the most 
solemn sense, Hero-worshippers ; and that, 
whatever may be their faults or shortcomings, 
their aim has always been the brightest and 
the noblest possible. The more you can 
admire them, and the longer you read, the 
more your minds and hearts will be filled 
with the best knowledge accessible in history, 
and the loftiest associations conveyable by the 
passionate and reverent skill, of which I have 
told you in the ' Laws of Fesole,' that " All 
great Art is Praise." 



The Art of England. 



LECTURES GIVEN IN OXFORD, 



BY 

JOHN RUSKIN, D.C.L., LL.D., 

HONORARY STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, AND HONORARY FELLOW OF CORPUS-CHRISTI COLLEGE, 

DURING HIS 

SECOND TENURE OF THE SLADE PROFESSORSHIP. 



LECTURE III. 

CLASSIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 



GEORGE ALLEN, 
SUNNYSIDE, ORPINGTON, KENT. 

1883. 



LECTURE III. 



CLASSIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 
Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadenta. 



Lecture III. 

CLASSIC SCHOOLS OF PAINTING. 

SIR F. LEIGHTON AND ALMA TADEMA. 

I HAD originally intended this lecture to be 
merely the exposition, with direct reference 
to painting and literature, of the single line 
of Horace which sums the conditions of a 
gentleman's education, be he rich or poor, 
learned or unlearned : 

" Est animus tibi, — sunt mores et lingua, — 
fidesque," 

c animus ' being that part of him in which 
he differs from an ox or an ape ; ' mores,' the 
difference in him from the c malignum vulgus'; 
c lingua,' eloquence, the power of expression; 
and < fides,' fidelity, to the Master, or Mistress, 
or Law, that he loves. But since I came to 



76 The Art of England, 

London and saw the exhibitions, I have 
thought good to address my discourse more 
pertinently to what must at this moment 
chiefly interest you in them. And I must at 
once, and before everything, tell you the 
delight given me by the quite beautiful work 
in portraiture, with which my brother-professor 
Richmond leads and crowns the general splen- 
dour of the Grosvenor Gallery. I am doubly 
thankful that his release from labour in Oxford 
has enabled him to develope his special powers 
so nobly, and that my own return grants me 
the privilege of publicly expressing to him the 
admiration we all must feel. 

And now in this following lecture, you 
must please understand at once that I use 
the word c classic,' first in its own sense of 
senatorial, academic, and authoritative ; but, 
as a necessary consequence of that first 
meaning, also in the sense, more proper 
to our immediate subject, of Anti-Gothic ; 
antagonist, that is to say, to the temper in 
which Gothic architecture was built : and not 



77Y. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 77 

only antagonist to that form of art, but 
contemptuous of it ; unforgiving to its faults, 
cold to its enthusiasms, and impatient of its 
absurdities. In which contempt the classic 
mind is certainly illiberal ; and narrower than 
the mind of an equitable art student should be 
in these enlightened days : — for instance, in 
the British Museum, it is quite right that the 
British public should see the Elgin marbles to 
the best advantage ; but not that they should 
be unable to see any example of the sculpture of 
Chartres or Wells, unless they go to the miscel- 
laneous collection at Kensington, where Gothic 
saints and sinners are confounded alike among 
steam thrashing-machines and dynamite-proof 
ships of war ; or to the Crystal Palace, where 
they are mixed up with Rimmel's perfumery. 
For this hostility, in our present English 
schools, between the votaries of classic and 
Gothic art, there is no ground in past history, 
and no excuse in the nature of those arts 
themselves. Briefly, to-day, I would sum for 
you the statement of their historical continuity 



j 8 The Art of England. 

which you will find expanded and illustrated 
in my former lectures. 

Only observe, for the present, you must 
please put Oriental Art entirely out of your 
heads. I shall allow myself no allusion to 
China, Japan, India, Assyria, or Arabia: though 
this restraint on myself will be all the more 
difficult, because, only a few weeks since, I 
had a delightful audience of Sir Frederick 
Leigh ton beside his Arabian fountain, and 
beneath his Aladdin's palace glass. Yet I 
shall not allude, in what I say of his designs, 
to any points in which they may perchance 
have been influenced by those enchantments. 
Similarly there were some charming Zobeides 
and Cleopatras among the variegated colour 
fancies of Mr. Alma Tadema in the last 
Grosvenor ; but I have nothing yet to say 
of them : it is only as a careful and learned 
interpreter of certain phases of Greek and 
Roman life, and as himself a most accom- 
plished painter, on long-established principles, 
that I name him as representatively £ classic' 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. jq 

The summary, therefore, which I have to 
give you of the course of Pagan and Gothic 
Art must be understood as kept wholly on 
this side of the Bosphorus, and recognizing 
no farther shore beyond the Mediterranean. 
Thus fixing our termini, you find from the 
earliest times, in Greece and Italy, a multitude 
of artists gradually perfecting the knowledge 
and representation of the human body, glorified 
by the exercises of war. And you have, north • 
of Greece and Italy, innumerably and incor- 
rigibly savage nations, representing, with rude 
and irregular efforts, on huge stones, and ice- 
borne boulders, on cave-bones and forest-stocks 
and logs, with any manner of innocent tinting 
or scratching possible to them, sometimes beasts, 
sometimes hobgoblins — sometimes, heaven only 
knows what ; but never attaining any skill 
in figure-drawing, until, whether invading or 
invaded, Greece and Italy teach them what 
a human being is like ; and with that help 
they dream and blunder on through the cen- 
turies, achieving many fantastic and amusing 



8o The Art of England. 

things, more especially the art of rhyming, 
whereby they usually express their notions of 
things far better than by painting. Neverthe- 
less, in due course we get a Holbein out of 
them ; and, in the end, for best product 
hitherto, Sir Joshua, and the supremely Gothic 
Gainsborough, whose last words we may take 
for a beautiful reconciliation of all schools 
and souls who have done their work to the 
best of their knowledge and conscience, — -"We 
are all going to Heaven, and Vandyke is of 
the company." 

" We are all going to Heaven." Either 
that is true of men and nations, or else 
that they are going the other way ; and the 
question of questions for them is — not how 
far from heaven they are, but whether they 
are going to it. Whether in Gothic or Classic 
Art, it is not the wisdom or the barbarism 
that you have to estimate — not the skill nor the 
rudeness ; — but the tendency. For instance, 
just before coming to Oxford this time, I 
received by happy chance from Florence the 



77Y. Sir F. Leighto?i and Alma Tadema. 81 

noble book just published at Monte Cassino, 
giving facsimiles of the Benedictine manu- 
scripts there, between the tenth and thirteenth 
centuries. Out of it I have chosen these four 
magnificent letters to place in your schools — 
magnificent I call them, as pieces of Gothic 
writing ; but they are still, you will find on 
close examination, extremely limited in range 
of imaginative subject. For these, and all the 
other letters of the alphabet in that central 
Benedictine school at the period in question, 
were composed of nothing else but packs 
of white dogs, jumping, with more contortion 
of themselves than has been contrived even by 
modern stage athletes, through any quantity 
of hoops. But I place these chosen examples 
in our series of lessons, not as patterns of 
dog-drawing, but as distinctly progressive 
Gothic art, leading infallibly forward — though 
the good monks had no notion how far, 
— to the Benedictine collie, in Landseer's 
1 Shepherd's Chief Mourner,' and the Benedictine 
bulldog, in Mr. Britton Riviere's 'Sympathy/ 



82 The Art of England. 

On the other hand, here is an enlarge- 
ment, made to about the proper scale, from 
a small engraving which I brought with 
me from Naples, of a piece of the Classic 
Pompeian art which has lately been so much 
the admiration of the aesthetic cliques of 
Paris and London. It purports to represent 
a sublimely classic cat, catching a sublimely 
classic chicken ; and is perhaps quite as 
much like a cat as the white spectra of 
Monte Cassino are like dogs. But at a 
glance I can tell you, — nor will you,. surely, 
doubt the truth of the telling, — -that it is art 
in precipitate decadence; that no bettering or 
even far dragging on of its existence is possible 
for it ; — that it is the work of a nation 
already in the jaws of death, and of a school 
which is passing away in shame. 

Remember, therefore, and write it on the 
very tables of your heart, that you must 
never, when you have to judge of character 
in national styles, regard them in their deca- 
dence, but always in their spring and youth. 



77Y. Sir F. Leighton and Ahna Tadema, 83 

Greek art is to be studied from Homeric 
days to those of Marathon ; Gothic, from 
Alfred to the Black Prince in England, from 
Clovis to St. Louis in France ; and the com- 
bination of both, which occurs first with 
absolute balance in the pulpit by Nicholas 
of Pisa in her baptistery, thenceforward up to 
Perugino and Sandro Botticelli. A period of 
decadence follows among all the nations of 
Europe, out of the ashes and embers of which 
the flame leaps again in Rubens and Vandyke; 
and so gradually glows and coruscates into 
the intermittent corona of indescribably various 
modern mind, of which in England you may, 
as I said, take Sir Joshua and Gainsborough 
for not only the topmost, but the hitherto 
total, representatives ; total, that is to say, 
out of the range of landscape, and above that 
of satire and caricature. All that the rest 
can do partially, they can do perfectly. They 
do it, not only perfectly, but nationally ; they 
are at once the greatest, and the Englishest, 
of all our school. 



84 The Art of England. 

The Englishest — and observe also, there- 
fore the greatest : take that for an universal, 
exceptionless law ; — the largest soul of any 
country is altogether its own. Not the citizen 
of the world, but of his own city, — nay, for 
the best men, you may say, of his own village. 
Patriot always, provincial always, of his own 
crag or field always. A Liddesdale man, or 
a Tynedale ; Angelico from the Rock of 
Fesole, or Virgil from the Mantuan marsh. 
You dream of National unity ! — you might as 
well strive to melt the stars down into one 
nugget, and stamp them small into coin with 
one Caesar's face. 

What mental qualities, especially English, 
you find in the painted heroes and beauties 
of Reynolds and Gainsborough, I can only 
discuss with you hereafter. But what external 
and corporeal qualities these masters of our 
masters love to paint, I must ask you to-day 
to consider for a few moments, under Mr. 
Carlyle's guidance, as well as mine, and with 
the analysis of ' Sartor Resartus.' Take, as 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 85 

types of the best work ever laid on British 
canvas, — types which I am sure you will 
without demur accept, — Sir Joshua's Age of 
Innocence, and Mrs. Pelham feeding chickens; 
Gainsborough's Mrs. Graham, divinely doing 
nothing, and Blue Boy similarly occupied ; 
and, finally, Reynolds' Lord Heathfield mag- 
nanimously and irrevocably locking up Gibraltar. 
Suppose, now, under the instigation of Mr. 
Carlyle and 'Sartor,' and under the counsel 
of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, we had it really in 
our power to bid Sir Joshua and Gainsborough 
paint all these over again, in the classic 
manner. Would you really insist on having 
her white frock taken off the Age of Inno- 
cence; on the Blue Boy's divesting himself of 
his blue ; on — we may not dream of any- 
thing more classic — Mrs. Graham's taking 
the feathers out of her hat ; and on Lord 
Heathfield's parting, — I dare not suggest, with 
his regimentals, but his orders of the Bath, 
or what else ? 

I own that I cannot, even myself, as I 



86 The Art of England, 

propose the alternatives, answer absolutely as 
a Goth, nor without some wistful leanings 
towards classic principle. Nevertheless, I feel 
confident in your general admission that the 
charm of all these pictures is in great degree 
dependent on toilette ; that the fond and 
graceful flatteries of each master do in no 
small measure consist in his management of 
frillings and trimmings, cuffs and collarettes ; 
and on beautiful flingings or fastenings of 
investiture, which can only here and there be 
called a drapery ', but insists on the perfectness 
of the forms it conceals, and deepens their 
harmony by its contradiction. And although 
now and then, when great ladies wish to be 
painted as sibyls or goddesses, Sir Joshua 
does his best to bethink himself of Michael 
Angelo, and Guido, and the Lightnings, and 
the Auroras, and all the rest of it, — you will, 
I think, admit that the culminating sweet- 
ness and Tightness of him are in some little 
Lady So-and-so, with round hat and strong 
shoes; and that a final separation from the 



///. Sir F. height on a?id Alma Tadema. 87 

Greek art which can be proud in a torso 
without a head, is achieved by the master who 
paints for you five little girls' heads, without 
ever a torso ! 

Thus, then, we arrive at a clearly in- 
telligible distinction between the Gothic and 
Classic schools, and a clear notion also of 
their dependence on one another. All jesting 
apart, — I think you may safely take Luca 
della Robbia with his scholars for an exponent 
of their unity, to all nations. Luca is brightly 
Tuscan, with the dignity of a Greek ; he 
has English simplicity, French grace, Italian 
devotion, — and is, I think, delightful to the 
truest lovers of art in all nations, and of all 
ranks. The Florentine Contadina rejoices to 
see him above her fruit-stall in the Mercato 
Vecchio : and, having by chance the other 
day a little Nativity by him on the floor 
of my study (one of his frequentest designs 
of the Infant Christ laid on the ground, and 
the Madonna kneeling to Him) — having it, I 
say, by chance on the floor, when a fashion- 



88 The Art of England. 

able little girl with her mother came to see 
me, the child about three years old — though 
there were many pretty and glittering things 
about the room which might have caught 
her eye or her fancy, the first thing, never- 
theless, my little lady does, is to totter quietly 
up to the white Infant Christ, and kiss it. 

Taking, then, Luca, for central between 
Classic and Gothic in sculpture, for central 
art of Florence, in painting, I show you the 
copies made for the St. George's Guild, of the 
two frescoes by Sandro Botticelli, lately bought 
by the French Government for the Louvre. 
These copies, made under the direction of 
Mr. C. F. Murray, while the frescoes were 
still untouched, are of singular value now. 
For in their transference to canvas for carriage 
much violent damage was sustained by the 
originals ; and as, even before, they were not 
presentable to the satisfaction of the French 
public, the backgrounds were filled in with 
black, the broken edges cut away ; and, thus 
repainted and maimed, they are now, dis- 



iTY. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 89 

graced and glassless, let into the wall of a 
stair-landing on the outside of the Louvre 
galleries. 

You will judge for yourselves of their de- 
servings ; but for my own part I can assure 
you of their being quite central and classic 
Florentine painting, and types of the manner 
in which, so far as you follow the instructions 
given in the c Laws of Fesole,' you will be 
guided to paint. Their subjects should be 
of special interest to us in Oxford and Cam- 
bridge, as bearing on institutions of colleges 
for maidens no less than bachelors. For these 
frescoes represent the Florentine ideal of edu- 
cation for maid and bachelor, — the one baptized 
by the Graces for her marriage, and the other 
brought to the tutelage of the Great Powers 
of Knowledge, under a great presiding Muse, 
whose name you must help me to interpret ; 
and with good help, both from maid and 
bachelor, I hope we shall soon be able to 
name, and honour, all their graces and virtues 

rightly. 

8 



90 The Art of England. 

Five out of the six Sciences and Powers 
on her right hand and left, I know. They 
are, on her left — geometry, astronomy, and 
music ; on her right — logic and rhetoric. 
The third, nearest her, I do not know, and 
will not guess. She herself bears a mighty 
bow, and I could give you conjectural inter- 
pretations of her, if I chose, to any extent ; 
but will wait until I hear what you think 
of her yourselves. I must leave you also to 
discover by whom the youth is introduced 
to the great conclave ; but observe, that, as 
in the frescoes of the Spanish Chapel, before 
he can approach that presence he has passed 
through the ' Strait Gate,' of which the bar has 
fallen, and the valve is thrown outwards. 
This portion of the fresco, on which the 
most important significance of the whole 
depended, was cut away in the French 
restoration. 

Taking now Luca and Sandro for standards 
of sweet consent in the feelings of either 
school, falling aside from them according to 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tade77ia. 91 

their likings or knowledge, you have the two 
evermore adverse parties, of whom Lord 
Lindsay speaks, as one studying the spirit, and 
the other the flesh : but you will find it more 
simply true to say that the one studies the 
head, and the other the body. And I think 
I am almost alone among recent tutors or 
professors, in recommending you to study both, 
at their best, and neither the skull of the one, 
nor skeleton of the other. 

I had a special lesson, leading me to this 
balance, when I was in Venice, in 1880. 
The authorities of the Academy did me the 
grace of taking down my two pet pictures of 
St. Ursula, and putting them into a quiet 
room for me to copy. Now in this quiet 
room where I was allowed to paint, there 
were a series of casts from the iEgina marbles, 
which I never had seen conveniently before ; 
and so, on my right hand and left, I had, 
all day long, the best pre-Praxitelite Classic 
art, and the best pre-Raphaelite Gothic art : 
and could turn to this side, or that, in an 



92 The Art of England. 

instant, to enjoy either ; — which I could do, 
in each case, with my whole heart ; only 
on this condition, that if I was to admire 
St. Ursula, it was necessary on the whole to 
be content with her face, and not to be too 
critical or curious about her elbows; but, 
in the iEgina marbles, one's principal atten- 
tion had to be given to the knees and elbows, 
while no ardent sympathies were excited by 
the fixed smile upon the face. 

Without pressing our northern cherubic 
principle to an extreme, it is really a true 
and extremely important consequence that all 
portraiture is essentially Gothic. You will 
find it stated — and with completely illustrative 
proof, in i Aratra Pentelici,' that portraiture 
was the destruction of Greek design ; certain 
exceptions being pointed out which I do not 
wish you now to be encumbered with. You 
may understand broadly that we Goths claim 
portraiture altogether for our own, and con- 
tentedly leave the classic people to round 
their chins by rule, and fix their smiles by 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 93 

precedent : we like a little irregularity in 
feature, and a little caprice in humour — and 
with the condition of dramatic truth in pas- 
sion, necessarily accept dramatic difference in 
feature. 

Our English masters of portraiture must 
not therefore think that I have treated them 
with disrespect, in not naming them, in these 
lectures, separately from others. Portraiture 
is simply a necessary function of good Gothic 
painting, nor can any man claim pre-eminence 
in epic or historic art who does not first 
excel in that. Nevertheless, be it said in 
passing, that the number of excellent portraits 
given daily in our illustrated papers prove 
the skill of mere likeness-taking to be no 
unfrequent or particularly admirable one ; 
and that it is to be somewhat desired that 
our professed portrait-painters should render 
their work valuable in all respects, and 
exemplary in its art, no less than delightful 
in its resemblance. The public, who are 
naturally in the habit of requiring rather the 



94 1 he Art of England. 

felicity and swiftness of likeness than abstract 
excellence in painting, are always ready to 
forgive the impetuosity which resembles force ; 
and the interests connected with rate of 
production tend also towards the encour- 
agement of superficial execution. Whereas 
in a truly great school, for the reasons given 
in my last lecture, it may often be in- 
evitable, and sometimes desirable, that works 
of high imaginative range and faculty should 
be slightly traced, and without minuteness 
finished ; but there is no excuse for imper- 
fection in a portrait, or failure of attention 
to its minor accessories. I have long ago 
given, for one instance of perfect portraiture, 
Holbein's George Guysen, at Berlin, quite 
one of the most accomplished pictures in 
the world ; and in my last visit to Florence 
none of the pictures before known in the 
Uffizii retained their power over me so 
completely as a portrait of a lady in the 
Tribune, which is placed as a pendant to 
Raphael's Fornarina, and has always been 



77T. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 95 

attributed to Raphael, being without doubt 
by some earlier and more laborious master; 
and, by whomsoever it may be, unrivalled 
in European galleries for its faultless and 
unaffected finish. 

I may be permitted in this place to 
express my admiration of the kind of por- 
traiture, which without supporting its claim 
to public attention by the celebrity of its 
subjects, renders the pictures of Mr. Stacy 
Marks so valuable as epitomes and types of 
English life. No portrait of any recognized 
master in science could be more interesting 
than the gentle Professor in this year's 
Academy, from whom even a rebelliously 
superficial person like myself might be con- 
tent to receive instruction in the mysteries 
of anatomy. Many an old traveller's remem- 
brances were quite pathetically touched by 
his monumental record of the c Three Jolly 
Postboys ' ; and that he scarcely paints for 
us but in play, is our own fault. Among 
all the endeavours in English historical paint- 



g6 The Art of England, 

ing exhibited in recent years, quite the most 
conscientious, vivid, and instructive, was Mr. 
Marks' rendering of the interview between 
Lord Say and Jack Cade ; and its quiet sin- 
cerity was only the cause of its being passed 
without attention. 

In turning now from these subjects of 
Gothic art to consider the classic ideal, 
though I do so in painful sense of trans- 
gressing the limits of my accurate knowledge, 
I do not feel entirely out of my element, 
because in some degree I claim even Sir 
Frederick Leighton as a kindred Goth. For, 
if you will overpass quickly in your minds 
what you remember of the treasures of Greek 
antiquity, you will find that, among them all, 
you can get no notion of what a Greek 
little girl was like. Matronly Junos, and 
tremendous Demeters, and Gorgonian Minervas, 
as many as you please ; but for my own 
part, always speaking as a Goth, I had much 
rather have had some idea of the Spartan 
Helen dabbling with Castor and Pollux in 



///. Sir F. Leigh ton and Alma Tadema. 97 

the Eurotas, — none of them over ten years 
old. And it is with extreme gratitude, there- 
fore, and unqualified admiration, that I find 
Sir Frederick condescending from the majesties 
of Olympus to the worship of these unappalling 
powers, which, heaven be thanked, are as 
brightly Anglo-Saxon as Hellenic; and painting 
for us, with a soft charm peculiarly his own, 
the witchcraft and the wonderfulness of child- 
hood. 

I have no right whatever to speak of the 
works of higher effort and claim, which have 
been the result of his acutely observant and 
enthusiastic study of the organism of the 
human body. I am indeed able to recognize 
his skill ; but have no sympathy with the 
subjects that admit of its display. I am 
enabled, however, to show you with what 
integrity of application it has been gained, 
by his kindness in lending me for the Ruskin 
school two perfect early drawings, one of a 
lemon tree, — and another, of the same date, 
of a Byzantine well, which determine for you 



98 The Art of England. 

without appeal, the question respecting necessity 
of delineation as the first skill of a painter. 
Of all our present masters, Sir Frederic Leighton 
delights most in softly-blended colours, and his 
ideal of beauty is more nearly that of Correggio 
than any seen since Correggio's time. But 
you see by what precision of terminal outline 
he at first restrained, and exalted, his gift of 
beautiful vaghezza. 

Nor is the lesson one whit less sternly 
conveyed to you by the work of M. Alma 
Tadema, who differs from all the artists I 
have ever known, except John Lewis, in the 
gradual increase of technical accuracy, which 
attends and enhances together the expanding 
range of his dramatic invention ; while every 
year he displays more varied and complex 
powers of minute draughtsmanship, more espe- 
cially in architectural detail, wherein, somewhat 
priding myself as a specialty, I nevertheless 
receive continual lessons from him; except 
only in this one point, — that, with me, the 
translucency and glow of marble is the prin- 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Ahna Tadema. 99 

cipal character of its substance, while with 
M. Tadema it is chiefly the superficial lustre 
and veining which seem to attract him ; and 
these, also, seen, not in the strength of 
southern sun, but in the cool twilight of 
luxurious chambers. With which insufficient, 
not to say degrading, choice of architectural 
colour and shade, there is a fallacy in his 
classic idealism, against which, while I respect- 
fully acknowledge his scholarship and his 
earnestness, it is necessary that you should be 
gravely and conclusively warned. 

I said that the Greeks studied the body 
glorified by war ; but much more, remember, 
they studied the mind glorified by it. It is 
the drives '^4^X770?, not the muscular force, 
which the good beauty of the body itself 
signifies ; and you may most strictly take 
the Homeric words describing the aspect 
of Achilles showing himself on the Greek 
rampart as representative of the total Greek 
ideal. Learn by heart, unforgettably, the seven 
lines — 



ioo The Art of England, 

Avrap 'AxiXkev? copro All </>l\os' a/jucfl 8 Adrjvri 
' fl/AOLS l(p6LjuLOLCTL {3a\ Alyl8a dvo-o~avoeo~(jav' 
A/ji<pl 8e ol KecfeaXjj v€<f>o<; ecrre^e 82a Oeacov 
Xpvcreov, e/c 8* avrov 8ale <f>\oya Tra/jLcfxtvooocrav. 
^Hvlo^ol 8* €K7r\r)yeV) ewel t8ov cuca/jLarov irvp 
AeLvov V7T€p K€<fidkr}<; /jueyaOv/JLOV IlrjXeLCovos 

AcLLOjJbGVOV* TO 8 k8(LL€ 06CL yXaVKtoTTLS A6t]V7] } 

which are enough to remind you of the 
whole context, and to assure you of the 
association of light and cloud, in their terrible 
mystery, with the truth and majesty of human 
form, in the Greek conception ; light and cloud, 
whether appointed either to show or to conceal, 
both given by a divine spirit, according to 
the bearing of your own university shield, 
" Dominus illuminatio." In all ancient heroic 
subjects, you will find these two ideas of light 
and mystery combined ; and these with height 
of standing — the Goddess central and high in 
the pediment of her temple, the hero on his 
chariot, or the Egyptian king colossal above 
his captives. 

Now observe, that whether of Greek or 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 101 

Roman life, M. Alma Tadema's pictures are 
always in twilight — interiors, viro o~u/jLfuyel ctkicl. 
I don't know if you saw the collection of 
them last year at the Grosvenor, but with that 
universal twilight there was also universal 
crouching or lolling posture, — either in fear 
or laziness. And the most gloomy, the most 
crouching, the most dastardly of all these 
representations of classic life, was the little 
picture called the Pyrrhic Dance, of which the 
general effect was exactly like a microscopic 
view of a small detachment of black-beetles, 
in search of a dead rat. 

I have named to you the Achillean 
splendour as primary type of Greek war ; 
but you need only glance, in your memory, 
for a few instants, over the habitual expres- 
sions of all the great poets, to recognize the 
magnificence of light, terrible or hopeful ; 
the radiance of armour, over all the field of 
battle, or flaming at every gate of the city ; 
as in the blazoned heraldry of the seven 
against Thebes, — or beautiful, as in the golden 



102 The Art of England. 

armour of Glaucus, down to the baser bright- 
ness for which Camilla died: remember also 
that the ancient Doric dance was strictly the 
dance of Apollo ; seized again by your own 
mightiest poet for the chief remnant of the 
past in the Greece of to-day — 

" You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet ; 
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone ? " 

And this is just the piece of classic life 
which your nineteenth century fancy sets forth 
under its fuliginous and cantharoid disfigure- 
ment and disgrace. 

I say, your nineteenth century fancy, for 
M. Alma Tadema does but represent — or 
rather, has haplessly got himself entangled in, 
— the vast vortex of recent Italian and French 
revolutionary rage against all that resists, or 
ever did resist, its licence ; in a word, against 
all priesthood and knighthood. 

The Roman state, observe, in the strength 
of it expresses both these ; the orders of 



77Y. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 103 

chivalry do not rise out of the disciplining 
of the hordes of Tartar horsemen, but by the 
Christianizing of the Roman eques ; and the 
noble priesthood of Western Christendom is 
not, in the heart of it, hieratic, but pon- 
tifical. And it is the last corruption of this 
Roman state, and its Bacchanalian phrenzy, 
which M. Alma Tadema seems to hold it his 
heavenly mission to pourtray. 

I have no mind, as I told you, to darken 
the healthy work I hope to lead you into by 
any frequent reference to antagonist influ- 
ences. But it is absolutely necessary for me 
to-day to distinguish, once for all, what it 
is above everything your duty, as scholars in 
Oxford, to know and love — the perpetual 
laws of classic literature and art, the laws 
of the Muses, from what has of late again 
infected the schools of Europe under the 
pretence of classic study, being indeed only 
the continuing poison of the Renaissance, and 
ruled, not by the choir of the Muses, but by 
the spawn of the Python. And this I have 



i 04 The Art of England. 

been long-minded to do ; but am only now 
enabled to do completely and clearly, and be- 
yond your doubt, by having obtained for you 
the evidence, unmistakable, of what remains 
classic from the ancient life of Italy — the 
ancient Etruscan life, down to this day; which 
is the perfection of humility, modesty, and 
serviceableness, as opposed to the character 
which remains in my mind as the total 
impression of the Academy and Grosvenor, — 
that the young people of this day desire to 
be painted first as proud, saying, How grand 
I am ; next as immodest, saying, How beau- 
tiful I am ; lastly as idle, saying, I am able 
to pay for flunkeys, and never did a stroke 
of work in my life. 

Since the day of the opening of the 
great Manchester exhibition in 1851, every 
Englishman, desiring to express interest in the 
arts, considers it his duty to assert with 
Keats, that a thing of beauty is a joy for 
ever. I do not know in what sense the 
saying was understood by the Manchester 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 105 

school. But this I know, that what joy may 
remain still for you and for your children — 
in the fields, the homes, and the churches 
of England — you must win by otherwise 
reading the fallacious line. A beautiful thing 
may exist but for a moment, as a reality ; — it 
exists for ever as a testimony. To the law 
and to the witness of it the nations must 
appeal, "in secula seculorum"; and in very 
deed and very truth, a thing of beauty is a 
law for ever. 

That is the true meaning of classic art 
and of classic literature ; — not the license of 
pleasure, but the law of goodness ; and if, of 
the two words, /cakos Kwyadog^ one can be left 
unspoken, as implied by the other, it is the 
first, not the last. It is written that the 
Creator of all things beheld them — not in 
that they were beautiful, but in that they 
were good. 

This law of beauty may be one, for 
aught we know, fulfilling itself more per- 
fectly as the years roll on ; but at least it 

9 



106 The Art of England. 

is one from which no jot shall pass. The 
beauty of Greece depended on the laws of 
Lycurgus ; the beauty of Rome, on those of 
Numa ; our own, on the laws of Christ. On 
all the beautiful features of men and women, 
throughout the ages, are written the solem- 
nities and majesty of the law they knew, 
with the charity and meekness of their 
obedience ; on all unbeautiful features are 
written either ignorance of the law, or the 
malice and insolence of the disobedience. 

I showed you, on the occasion of my 
first address, a drawing of the death of a 
Tuscan girl, — a saint, in the full sense of that 
word, such as there have been, and still are, 
among the Christian women of all nations. 
I bring you to-day the portrait of a Tuscan 
Sibyl, — such as there have been, and still are. 
She herself is still living ; her portrait is 
the first drawing illustrating the book of 
the legends of the peasantry of Val d'Arno, 
which I obtained possession of in Florence 
last year ; of which book I will now read you 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 107 

part of the preface, in which the authoress 
gives you the story of the life of this Etrurian 
Sibyl. 

" Beatrice was the daughter of a stonemason 
at Melo, a little village of not very easy access 
on the mountain-side above Cutigliano ; and 
her mother having died in Beatrice's infancy, 
she became, from early childhood, the com- 
panion and assistant of her father, accompanying 
him to his winter labours in the Maremma, 
and as she grew stronger, helping him at his 
work by bringing him stones for the walls 
and bridges which he built — carrying them 
balanced on her head. She had no education, 
in the common sense of the word, never 
learning even the alphabet; but she had a 
wonderful memory, and could sing or recite 
long pieces of poetry. As a girl, she used 
in summer to follow the sheep, with her 
distaff at her waist, and would fill up her 
hours of solitude by singing such ballads as 
c The War of St. Michael and the Dragon,' 
c The Creation of the World, and the Fall 



108 The Art of England. 

of Man,' or, c The History of San Pelegrino, 
son of Romano, King of Scotland : ' and now, 
in her old age, she knows nearly all the 
New Testament history, and much of the Old, 
in a poetical form. She was very beautiful 
then, they say; with curling black hair and 
wonderful inspired-looking eyes, and there 
must always have been a great charm in her 
voice and smile ; so it is no great wonder 
that Matteo Bernardi, much older than herself, 
and owner of a fine farm at Pian degli 
Ontani, and of many cattle, chose rather to 
marry the shepherd girl who could sing so 
sweetly, than another woman whom his family 
liked better, and who might perhaps have 
brought him more increase of worldly pros- 
perity. On Beatrice's wedding day, according 
to the old custom of the country, one or two 
poets improvised verses suitable to the occasion; 
and as she listened to them, suddenly she felt 
in herself a new power, and began to sing the 
poetry which was then born in her mind, 
and having once begun, found it impossible 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 109 

to stop, and kept on singing a great while, 
so that all were astonished, and her uncle, 
who was present, said — " Beatrice, you have 
deceived me ! if I had known what you were, 
I would have put you in a convent." From 
that time forth she was the great poetess of 
all that part of the country ; and was sent 
for to sing and recite at weddings, and other 
festivals, for many miles around: and perhaps 
she might have been happy, but her husband's 
sister, Barbara, who lived in the house, and 
who had not approved of the marriage, tried 
very wickedly to set her brother against his 
wife, and to some extent succeeded. He tried 
to stop her singing, which seemed to him a 
sort of madness, and at times he treated her 
with great unkindness ; but sing she must, 
and sing she did, for it was what the Lord 
made her for, and she lived down all their 
dislike ; her husband loved her in his old 
age, and Barbara, whom she nursed with 
motherly kindness through a long and most 
distressing illness, was her friend before she 



iio The Art of England. 

died. Beatrice is still living, at a great age 
now, but still retaining much of her old 
beauty and brilliancy, and is waited on and 
cared for with much affection by a pretty 
granddaughter bearing the same name as 
herself." 

There are just one or two points I want 
you to note in this biography, specially. 

The girl is put, in her youth, to three 
kinds of noble work. She is a shepherdess, 
like St. Genevieve; a spinner and knitter, like 
Queen Bertha ; chiefly and most singularly, 
she is put to help her father in the pontifical 
art of bridge-building. Gymnastic to purpose, 
you observe. In the last, or last but one, 
number of your favourite English chronicle, 
the proud mother says of her well-trained 
daughters, that there is not one who could 
not knock down her own father : here is a 
strong daughter who can help her father — a 
Grace Darling of the rivers instead of the sea. 

These are the first three things to be 
noted of her. Next, the material of her 



V7T. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 1 1 1 

education, — not in words, but in thoughts, 
and the greatest of thoughts. You continually 
hear that Roman Catholics are not allowed 
to read the Bible. Here is a little shepherdess 
who has it in her heart. 

Next, the time of her inspiration, — at her 
wedding feast ; as in the beginning of her 
Master's ministry, at Cana. Here is right 
honour put upon marriage; and, in spite of 
the efforts made to disturb her household 
peace, it was entirely blessed to her in her 
children : nor to her alone, but to us, and 
to myriads with us ; for her second son, 
Angelo, is the original of the four drawings 
of St. Christopher which illustrate the central 
poem in Miss Alexander's book ; and which 
are, to the best of my knowledge, the most 
beautiful renderings of the legend hitherto 
attained by religious imagination. 

And as you dwell on these portraits of a 
noble Tuscan peasant, the son of a noble 
Christian mother, — learn this farther and final 
distinction between the greatest art of past 



H2 The Art of England. 

time, and that which has become possible 
now and in future. 

The Greek, I said, pourtrayed the body 
and the mind of man, glorified in mortal war. 
But to us is given the task of holier portraiture, 
of the countenance and the heart of man, 
glorified by the peace of God. 

Whether Francesca's book is to be even- 
tually kept together or distributed I do not 
yet know. But if distributed, the drawings 
of St. Christopher must remain in Oxford, 
being, as I have said, the noblest statements 
I have ever seen of the unchangeable meaning 
of this Ford of ours, for all who pass it 
honestly, and do not contrive false traverse for 
themselves over a widened Magdalen Bridge. 
That ford, gentlemen, for ever, — know what 
you may, — hope what you may, — believe or 
deny what you may, — you have to pass bare- 
foot. For it is a baptism as well as a ford, 
and the waves of it, as the sands, are holy. 
Your youthful days in this place are to you 
the dipping of your feet in the brim of the 



///. Sir F. Leighton and Alma Tadema. 113 

river, which is to be manfully stemmed by 
you all your days ; not drifted with, — nor 
toyed upon. Fallen leaves enough it is strewn 
with, of the flowers of the forest ; moraine 
enough it bears, of the ruin of the brave. 
Your task is to cross it ; your doom may be 
to go down with it, to the depths out of 
which there is no crying. Traverse it, staff 
in hand, and with loins girded, and with 
whatsoever law of Heaven you know, for your 
light. On the other side is the Promised 
Land, the Land of the Leal. 



10 



The Art of England. 



LECTURES GIVEX IN OXFORD, 



JOHN RUSKIN, D.C.L., LL.D., 

H'»t{(.>R\RY STTDP.ST OF CHRIST CHl'RCII, AND HONORARY FELLOW OF COKHSCKRISTl COU.RGK, 

DURING HIS 

SECOND TENURE OF THE SLADE PR0FESS0RSI1IF, 



LECTURE IV. 
FAIRY LAND 



GEORGE ALLEN, 
SCNXYSIDE, ORPINGTON, KENT. 

1883. 



LECTURE IV. 



FAIRY LAND. 
Mrs. Allingham and Kate Greenaway. 



1 1 



Lecture IV. 
FAIRY LAND. 

MRS. ALLINGHAM AND KATE GREENAWAY. 

WE have hitherto been considering the 
uses of legendary art to grown 
persons, and to the most learned and powerful 
minds. To-day I will endeavour to note with 
you some of the least controvertible facts 
respecting its uses to children ; and to obtain 
your consent to the main general principles 
on which I believe it should be offered to 
them. 

Here, however, I enter t on ground where 
I must guard carefully against being misled 
by my own predilections, and in which also 
the questions at issue are extremely difficult, 
because most of them new. It is only in 
recent times that pictures have become familiar 
means of household pleasure and education : 



1 1 8 The Art of England. 

only in our own days — nay, even within the 
last ten years of those, that the means of 
illustration by colour-printing have been brought 
to perfection, and art as exquisite as we need 
desire to see it, placed, if our school-boards 
choose to have it so, within the command of 
every nursery governess. 

Having then the colour-print, the magic- 
lantern, the electric-light, and the — to any 
row of ciphers — magnifying, lens, it becomes 
surely very interesting to consider what we 
may most wisely represent to children by 
means so potent, so dazzling, and, if we will, 
so faithful. I said just now that I must guard 
carefully against being misled by my own pre- 
dilections, because having been myself brought 
up principally on. fairy legends, my first im- 
pulse would be to insist upon every story we 
tell to a child being untrue, and every scene 
we paint for it, impossible. But I have been 
led, as often before confessed, gravely to doubt 
the expediency of some parts of my early 
training ; and perhaps some day may try to 



IF. Mrs. Ailing ham and K. Greenaway. 119 

divest myself wholly, for an hour, of these 
dangerous recollections ; and prepare a lecture 
for you in which I will take Mr. Gradgrind 
on his own terms, and consider how far, 
making it a rule that we exhibit nothing but 
facts, we could decorate our pages of history, 
and illuminate the slides of our lantern, in a 
manner still sufficiently attractive to childish 
taste. For indeed poor Louise and her brother, 
kneeling to peep under the fringes of the 
circus-tent, are as much in search after facts 
as the most scientific of us all ! A circus- 
rider, with his hoop, is as much a fact as the 
planet Saturn and his ring, and exemplifies 
a great many more laws of motion, both 
moral and physical; nor are any descriptions 
of the Valley of Diamonds v or the Lake of the 
Black Islands, in the ' Arabian Nights,' anything 
like so wonderful as the scenes of California 
and the Rocky Mountains which you may find 
described in the April number of the 'Cornhill 
Magazine,' under the heading of c Early Spring 
in California'; and may see represented with 



120 The Art of England, 

most sincere and passionate enthusiasm by the 
American landscape painter, Mr. Moran, in 
a survey lately published by the Government 
of the United States. 

Scenes majestic as these, pourtrayed with 
mere and pure fidelity by such scientific 
means as I have referred to, would form a 
code of geographic instruction beyond all 
the former grasp of young people ; and a 
source of entertainment, — I had nearly said, 
and most people who had not watched the 
minds of children carefully, might think, — 
inexhaustible. Much, indeed, I should myself 
hope from it, but by no means an infinitude of 
entertainment. For it is quite an inexorable 
law of this poor human nature of ours, that 
in the development of its healthy infancy, it 
is put by Heaven under the absolute necessity 
of using its imagination as well as its lungs 
and its legs ; — that it is forced to develope its 
power of invention, as a bird its feathers of 
flight; that no toy you can bestow will super- 
sede the pleasure it has in fancying something 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 121 

that isn't there ; and the most instructive his- 
tories you can compile for it of the wonders 
of the world will never conquer the interest 
of the tale which a clever child can tell 
itself, concerning the shipwreck of a rose-leaf 
in the shallows of a rivulet. 

One of the most curious proofs of the 
need to children of this exercise of the in- 
ventive and believing power, — the besoin de 
croire, which precedes the besoin d^aimer^ you 
will find in the way you destroy the vitality 
of a toy to them, by bringing it too near the 
imitation of life. You never find a child make 
a pet of a mechanical mouse that runs about 
the floor — of a poodle that yelps — of a tumbler 
who jumps upon wires. The child falls in 
love with a quiet thing, with an ugly one — 
nay, it may be, with one, to us, totally devoid 
of meaning. My little — ever- so - many- times - 
grand — cousin, Lily, took a bit of stick with 
a round knob at the end of it for her doll 
one day; — nursed it through any number of 
illnesses with the most tender solicitude ; and, 



122 The Art of Eng/and. 

on the deeply-important occasion of its having 
a new nightgown made for it, bent down her 
mother's head to receive the confidential and 
timid whisper — " Mamma, perhaps it had better 
have no sleeves, because, as Bibsey has no arms, 
she mightn't like it." 

I must take notice here, but only in pass- 
ing, — the subject being one to be followed 
out afterwards in studying more grave branches 
of art, — that the human mind in its full 
energy having thus the power of believing 
simply what it likes, the responsibilities and 
the fatalities attached to the effort of Faith 
are greater than those belonging to bodily 
deed, precisely in the degree of their voluntari- 
ness. A man can't always do what he likes, 
but he can always fancy what he likes ; and 
he may be forced to do what he doesn't like, 
but he can't be forced to fancy what he 
doesn't like. 

I use for the moment, the word 'to fancy' 
instead of \ to believe,' because the whole 
subject of Fidelity and Infidelity has been 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 123 

made a mere mess of quarrels and blunders 
by our habitually forgetting that the proper 
power of Faith is to trust without evidence, 
not with evidence. You perpetually hear 
people say, c I won't believe this or that 
unless you give me evidence of it.' Why, if 
you give them evidence of it, they know it, — 
they don't believe, any more. A man doesn't 
believe there's any danger in nitro-glycerine ; 
at last he gets his parlour-door blown into 
next street. He is then better informed on 
the subject, but the time for belief is past. 

Only, observe, I don't say that you can 
fancy what you like, to the degree of receiving 
it for truth. Heaven forbid we should have 
a power such as that, for it would be one of 
voluntary madness. But we are, in the most 
natural and rational health, able to foster the 
fancy, up to the point of influencing our 
feelings and character in the strongest way ; 
and for the strength of that healthy imagi- 
native faculty, and all the blending of the 
good and grace, " richiesto al vero ed al 



124 The Art of England. 

trastullo,"* we are wholly responsible. We 
may cultivate it to what brightness we choose, 
merely by living in a quiet relation with 
natural objects and great and good people, 
past or present ; and we may extinguish it to 
the last snuff, merely by living in town, and 
reading the c Times ' every morning. 

" We are scarcely sufficiently conscious," 
says Mr. Kinglake, with his delicate precision 
of serenity in satire, " scarcely sufficiently 
conscious in England, of the great debt we 
owe to the wise and watchful press which 
presides over the formation of our opinions; 
and which brings about this splendid result, 
namely, that in matters of belief, the humblest 
of us are lifted up to the level of the most 
sagacious, so that really a simple Cornet in 
the Blues is no more likely to entertain a 
foolish belief about ghosts, or witchcraft, or 
any other supernatural topic, than the Lord 
High Chancellor, or the Leader of the House 
of Commons." 

* Dante, Purg. xiv. 93. 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 125 

And thus, at the present day, for the edu- 
cation or the extinction of the Fancy, we are 
absolutely left to our choice. For its occupation, 
not wholly so, yet in a far greater measure 
than we know. Mr. Wordsworth speaks of it 
as only impossible to " have sight of Proteus 
rising from the sea," because the world is too 
much with us ; also Mr. Kinglake, though, 
in another place, he calls it " a vain and 
heathenish longing to be fed with divine 
counsels from the lips of Pallas Athene," — 
yet is far happier than the most scientific 
traveller could be in a trigonometric measure- 
ment, when he discovers that Neptune could 
really have seen Troy from the top of Samo- 
thrace: and I believe that we should many of 
us find it an extremely wholesome and useful 
method of treating our ordinary affairs, if 
before deciding, even upon very minor points 
of conduct admitting of prudential and con- 
scientious debate, we were in the habit of 
imagining that Pallas Athene was actually in 
the room with us, or at least outside the 



126 The Art of England. 

window in the form of a swallow, and per- 
mitted us, on the condition always of instant 
obedience, to ask her advice upon the matter. 

Here ends my necessary parenthesis, with 
its suspicion of preachment, for which I crave 
pardon, and I return to my proper subject of 
to-day, — the art which intends to address only 
childish imagination, and whose object is 
primarily to entertain with grace. 

With grace: — I insist much on this latter 
word. We may allow the advocates of a 
material philosophy to insist that every wild- 
weed tradition of fairies, gnomes, and sylphs 
should be well ploughed out of a child's 
mind to prepare it for the good seed of 
the Gospel of — Z)/Vgrace : but no defence 
can be offered for the presentation of these 
ideas to its mind in a form so vulgarized as 
to defame and pollute the masterpieces of 
former literature. It is perfectly easy to 
convince the young proselyte of science that 
a cobweb on the top of a thistle cannot be 
commanded to catch a honey-bee for him, 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 127 

without introducing a dance of ungainly fairies 
on the site of the cabstand under the West- 
minster clock tower, or making the Queen of 
them fall in love with the sentry on guard. 

With grace, then, assuredly, — and I think 
we may add also, with as much seriousness as 
an entirely fictitious subject may admit of — 
seeing that it touches the border of that higher 
world which is not fictitious. We are all 
perhaps too much in the habit of thinking 
the scenes of burlesque in the c Midsummer 
Night's Dream ' exemplary of Shakespeare's 
general treatment of fairy character : we 
should always remember that he places the 
most beautiful words descriptive of virgin 
purity which English poetry possesses, in the 
mouth of the Fairy King, and that to the 
Lord of Fancies he entrusts the praise of the 
conquest of Fancy, — 

"In maiden meditation, — Fancy free." 

Still less should we forget the function of 



128 The Art of England, 

household benediction, attributed to them 
always by happy national superstition, and 
summed in the closing lines of the same 
play,— 

" With this field-dew consecrate, 
Every fairy take his gait ; 
And each several chamber bless, 
Through this palace, with sweet peace." 

With seriousness then, — but only, I repeat, 
such as entirely fictitious elements properly 
admit of. The general grace and sweetness 
of Scott's moorland fairy, i The White Lady,' 
failed of appeal to the general justice of 
public taste, because in two places he fell 
into the exactly opposite errors of unbecoming 
jest, and too far-venturing solemnity. The 
ducking of the Sacristan offended even his 
most loving readers ; but it offended them 
chiefly for a reason of which they were in 
great part unconscious, that the jest is carried 
out in the course of the charge with which 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 129 

the fairy is too gravely entrusted, to protect, 
for Mary of Avenel, her mother's Bible. 

It is of course impossible, in studying 
questions of this kind, to avoid confusion 
between what is fit in literature and in art; 
the leading principles are the same in both, 
but of course much may be allowed to the 
narrator which is impossible or forbidden to 
the draughtsman. And I necessarily take 
examples chiefly from literature, because the 
greatest masters of story have never disdained 
the playfully supernatural elements of fairy- 
tale, while it is extremely rare to find a 
good painter condescending to them, — or, I 
should rather say, contending with them, the 
task being indeed one of extreme difficulty. 
I believe Sir Noel Paton's pictures of the 
Court of Titania, and Fairy Raid, are all we 
possess in which the accomplished skill of 
painting has been devoted to fairy-subject; 
and my impression when I saw the former 
picture — the latter I grieve not yet to have seen 
— was that the artist intended rather to obtain 



130 The Art of England. 

leave by the closeness of ocular distance to 
display the exquisite power of minute de- 
lineation, which he felt in historical painting 
to be inapplicable, than to arrest, either in 
his own mind or the spectator's, even a 
momentary credence in the enchantment of 
fairy-wand and fairy-ring. 

And within the range of other art which 
I can call to mind, touching on the same 
ground, — or rather, breathing in the same 
air, — it seems to me a sorrowful and some- 
what unaccountable law that only grotesque 
or terrible fancies present themselves forcibly 
enough, in these admittedly fabling states of 
the imagination, to be noted with the pencil. 
For instance, without rating too highly the 
inventive powers of the old German outline- 
draughtsman, Retsch, we cannot but attribute 
to him a very real gift of making visibly terrible 
such legend as that of the ballad of Leonora, 
and interpreting, with a wild aspect of veracity, 
the passages of sorcery in ' Faust.' But the 
drawing which I possess by his hand, of the 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 131 

Genius of Poetry riding upon a swan, could 
not be placed in my school with any hope of 
deepening your impression either of the beauty 
of swans, or the dignity of genii. 

You must, however, always carefully distin- 
guish these states of gloomy fantasy, natural, 
though too often fatal, to men of real imagi- 
nation, — the spectra which appear, whether 
they desire it or not, — to men like Orcagna, 
Durer, Blake, and Alfred Rethel, — and dwelt 
upon by them, in the hope of producing some 
moral impression of salutary awe by their 
record — as in Blake's Book of Job, in Durer's 
Apocalypse, in Rethel's Death the Avenger 
and Death the Friend, — and more nobly in his 
grand design of Barbarossa entering the grave 
of Charlemagne ; — carefully, I say, you must 
distinguish this natural and lofty phase of 
visionary terror, from the coarse delight in 
mere pain and crisis of danger, which, in 
our infidel art and literature for the young, 
fills our books of travel with pictures of 

alligators swallowing children, hippopotami 

12 



132 The Art of England. 

upsetting canoes full of savages, bears on 
their hind-legs doing battle with northern 
navigators, avalanches burying Alpine villages, 
and the like, as the principal attractions of 
the volume ; not, in the plurality of cases, 
without vileness of exaggeration which amounts 
to misleading falsehood — unless happily pushed 
to the point where mischief is extinguished 
by absurdity. In Strahan's c Magazine for the 
Youth of all Ages,' for June 1879, at P a g e 
328, you will find it related, in a story 
proposed for instruction in scientific natural 
history, that " the fugitives saw an enormous 
elephant cross the clearing, surrounded by 
ten tigers, some clinging to its back, and 
others keeping alongside." 

I may in this place, I think, best introduce 
— though again parenthetically — the suggestion 
of a healthy field for the labouring scientific 
fancy which remains yet unexhausted, and I 
believe inexhaustible, — that of the fable, ex- 
panded into narrative, which gives a true 
account of the life of animals, supposing them 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 133 

to be endowed with human intelligence, 
directed to the interests of their animal life. 
I said just now that I had been brought up upon 
fairy legends, but I must gratefully include, 
under the general tide of these, the stories in 
1 Evenings at Home ' of • The Transmigrations 
of Indur, The Discontented Squirrel, The 
Travelled Ant, The Cat and her Children, 
and Little Fido ; and with these, one now 
quite lost, but which I am minded soon to 
reprint for my younger pupils, — The History 
of a Field-Mouse, which in its pretty detail is 
no less amusing, and much more natural, than 
the town and country mice of Horace and 
Pope, — classic, in the best sense, though these 
will always be. 

There is the more need that some true 
and pure examples of fable in this kind should 
be put within the reach of children, because 
the wild efforts of weak writers to increase 
their incomes at Christmas, and the unscru- 
pulous encouragement of them by competing 
booksellers, fill our nurseries with forms of 



1 34 The Art of England. 

rubbish which are on the one side destructive 
of the meaning of all ancient tradition, and 
on the other, reckless of every really inter- 
esting truth in exact natural history. Only 
the other day, in examining the mixed contents 
of a somewhat capacious nursery bookcase, the 
first volume I opened was a fairy tale in 
which the benevolent and moral fairy drove 
a "matchless pair of white cockatrices." I 
might take up all the time yet left for this 
lecture in exposing to you the mingled folly 
and mischief in those few words ; — the pan- 
dering to the first notion of vulgar children 
that all glory consists in driving a matchless 
pair of something or other, — and the implied 
ignorance in which only such a book could 
be presented to any children, of the most 
solemn of scriptural promises to them, — " the 
weaned child shall lay his hand on the 
cockatrice' den." 

And the next book I examined was a 
series of stories imported from Japan,* most of 

* Macmillan, 1871. 



IF. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 135 

them simply sanguinary and loathsome, but 
one or two pretending to be zoological — as, 
for instance, that of the Battle of the Ape 
and the Crab, of which it is said in the 
introduction that " men should lay it up in 
their hearts, and teach it as a profitable 
lesson to their children." In the opening of 
this profitable story, the crab plants a " per- 
simmon seed in his garden" (the reader is not 
informed what manner of fruit the persimmon 
may be), and watches the growth of the tree 
which springs from it with great delight; 
being, we are told in another paragraph, " a 
simple-minded creature." 

I do not know whether this conception of 
character in the great zodiacal crustacean is 
supposed to be scientific or aesthetic, — but I 
hope that British children at the seaside are 
capable of inventing somewhat better stories of 
crabs for themselves; and if they would farther 
know the foreign manners of the sidelong- 
pacing people, let me ask them to look at the 
account given by Lord George Campbell, in 



136 The Art of England. 

his ' Log Letters from the Challenger,' of his 
landing on the island of St. Paul, and of the 
manner in which the quite unsophisticated 
crabs of that locality succeeded first in stealing 
his fish-bait, and then making him lose his 
temper, to a degree extremely unbecoming in 
a British nobleman. They will not, after the 
perusal of that piquant — or perhaps I should 
rather say, pincant, — narrative, be disposed, 
whatever other virtues they may possess, to 
ascribe to the obliquitous nation that of 
simplicity of mind. 

I have no time to dwell longer on the 
existing fallacies in the representation either 
of the fairy or the animal kingdoms. I must 
pass to the happier duty of returning thanks 
for the truth with which our living painters 
have drawn for us the lovely dynasty of little 
creatures, about whose reality there can be no 
doubt; and who are at once the most powerful 
of fairies, and the most amusing, if not always 
the most sagacious ! of animals. 

In my last lecture, I noted to you, though 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 137 

only parenthetically, the singular defect in 
Greek art, that it never gives you any con- 
ception of Greek children. Neither — up to 
the thirteenth century — does Gothic art give 
you any conception of Gothic children ; for, 
until the thirteenth century, the Goth was 
not perfectly Christianized, and still thought 
only of the strength of humanity as admirable 
in battle or venerable in judgment, but not 
as dutiful in peace, nor happy in simplicity. 

But from the moment when the spirit of 
Christianity had been entirely interpreted to 
the Western races, the sanctity of womanhood 
worshipped in the Madonna, and the sanctity 
of childhood in unity with that of Christ, 
became the light of every honest hearth, and 
the joy of every pure and chastened soul. 
Yet the traditions of art-subject, and the vices 
of luxury which developed themselves in the 
following (fourteenth) century, prevented the 
manifestation of this new force in domestic 
life for two centuries more; and then at last 
in the child angels of Luca, Mino of Fesole, 



138 The Art of England, 

Luini, Angelico, Perugino, and the first days 
of Raphael, it expressed itself as the one pure 
and sacred passion which protected Christendom 
from the ruin of the Renaissance. 

Nor has it since failed; and whatever disgrace 
or blame obscured the conception of the later 
Flemish and incipient English schools, the 
children, whether in the pictures of Rubens, 
Rembrandt, Vandyke, or Sir Joshua, were 
always beautiful. An extremely dark period 
indeed follows, leading to and persisting in 
the French Revolution, and issuing in the 
merciless manufacturing fury, which to-day 
grinds children to dust between millstones, 
and tears them to pieces on engine-wheels, 
— against which rises round us, Heaven be 
thanked, again the protest and the power of 
Christianity, restoring the fields of the quiet 
earth to the steps of her infancy. 

In Germany, this protest, I believe, began 
with — it is at all events perfectly represented by 
— the Ludwig Richter I have so often named; 
in France, with Edward Frere, whose pictures 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 139 

of children are of quite immortal beauty. 
But in England it was long repressed by the 
terrible action of our wealth, compelling our 
painters to represent the children of the poor 
as in wickedness or misery. It is one of the 
most terrific facts in all the history of British 
art that Bewick never draws children but in 
mischief. 

I am not able to say with whom, in Britain, 
the reaction first begins, — but certainly not in 
painting until after Wilkie, in all whose works 
there is not a single example of a beautiful 
Scottish boy or girl. I imagine in literature, 
we may take the 'Cottar's Saturday Night' and 
the 'toddlin' wee things' as the real beginning 
of child benediction ; and I am disposed to 
assign in England much value to the widely 
felt, though little acknowledged, influence of 
an authoress now forgotten — Mary Russell 
Mitford. Her village children in the Low- 
lands — in the Highlands, the Lucy Grays and 
Alice Fells of Wordsworth — brought back 
to us the hues of Fairy Land ; and although 



1 40 The Art of England. 

long by Academic art denied or resisted, at 
last the charm is felt in London itself, — on 
pilgrimage in whose suburbs you find the 
Little Nells and boy David Copperfields; and 
in the heart of it, Kit's baby brother at 
Astley's, indenting his cheek with an oyster- 
shell to the admiration of all beholders ; till 
at last, bursting out like one of the sweet 
Surrey fountains, all dazzling and pure, you 
have the radiance and innocence of reinstated 
infant divinity showered again among the 
flowers of English meadows by Mrs. Allingham 
and Kate Greenaway. 

It has chanced strangely, that every one 
of the artists to whom in these lectures I 
wished chiefly to direct your thoughts, has 
been insufficiently, or even disadvantageously, 
represented by his work in the exhibitions of 
the season. But chiefly I have been dis- 
appointed in finding no drawing of the least 
interest by Mrs. Allingham in the room of the 
Old Water-colour Society. And let me say 
in passing, that none of these new splendours 



IV, Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 141 

and spaces of show galleries, with attached 
restaurants to support the cockney constitu- 
tion under the trial of getting from one end 
of them to the other, will in the least make 
up to the real art-loving public for the loss 
of the good fellowship of our old societies, 
every member of which sent everything he had 
done best in the year into the room, for the 
May meetings; shone with his debited measure 
of admiration in his accustomed corner ; sup- 
ported his associates without eclipsing them ; 
supplied his customers without impoverishing 
them ; and was permitted to sell a picture to 
his patron or his friend, without paying fifty 
guineas commission on the business to a 
dealer. 

Howsoever it may have chanced, Mrs. 
Allingham has nothing of importance in the 
water-colour room; and I am even sorrowfully 
compelled to express my regret that she should 
have spent unavailing pains in finishing single 
heads, which are at the best uninteresting 
miniatures, instead of fulfilling her true gift, 



142 The Art of England. 

and doing what (in Miss Alexander's words) 
£ the Lord made her for ' — in representing the 
gesture, character, and humour of charming 
children in country landscapes. Her ' Tea 
Party/ in last year's exhibition, with the little 
girl giving her doll its bread and milk, and 
taking care that she supped it with propriety, 
may be named as a most lovely example of 
her feeling and her art ; and the drawing 
which some years ago riveted, and ever since 
has retained, the public admiration, — the two 
deliberate housewives in their village toyshop, 
bent on domestic utilities and economies, and 
proud in the acquisition of two flat irons for 
a farthing, — has become, and rightly, a classic 
picture, which will have its place among the 
memorable things in the art of our time, 
when many of its loudly trumpeted magni- 
ficences are remembered no more. 

I must not in this place omit mention, 
with sincere gratitude, of the like motives in 
the paintings of Mr. Birkett Foster ; but with 
regret that in too equal, yet incomplete, 



IF, Mrs. Allinghafn and K. Greenaway. 143 

realization of them, mistaking, in many instances, 
mere spotty execution for finish, he has never 
taken the high position that was open to him 
as an illustrator of rustic life. 

And I am grieved to omit the names of 
many other artists who have protested, with 
consistent feeling, against the misery entailed 
on the poor children of our great cities, — by 
painting the real inheritance of childhood in 
the meadows and fresh air. But the gracious- 
ness and sentiment of them all is enough 
represented by the hitherto undreamt-of, and, 
in its range, unrivalled, fancy, which is now 
re-establishing throughout gentle Europe, the 
manners and customs of fairyland. 

I may best indicate to you the grasp 
which the genius of Miss Kate Greenaway 
has taken upon the spirit of foreign lands, no 
less than her own, by translating the last 
paragraph of the entirely candid, and inti- 
mately observant, review of modern English 
art, given by Monsieur Ernest Chesneau, in 
his small volume, c La Peinture Anglaise,' of 



144 ^ ne ^ rt °f England. 

which I will only at present say, that any of 
my pupils who read French with practice 
enough to recognize the finesse of it in exact 
expression, may not only accept his criticism 
as my own, but will find it often more careful 
than mine, and nearly always better expressed ; 
because French is essentially a critical language, 
and can say things in a sentence which it would 
take half a page of English to explain. 

He gives first a quite lovely passage (too 
long to introduce now) upon the gentleness 
of the satire of John Leech, as opposed to 
the bitter malignity of former caricature. 
Then he goes on : " The great softening of 
the English mind, so manifest already in John 
Leech, shows itself in a decisive manner by 
the enthusiasm with which the public have 
lately received the designs of Mr. Walter Crane, 
Mr. Caldecott, and Miss Kate Greenaway. 
The two first named artists began by address- 
ing to children the stories of Perrault and of 
the Arabian Nights, translated and adorned 
for them in a dazzling manner; and, in the 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 145 

works of all these three artists, landscape 
plays an important part ; — familiar landscape, 
very English, interpreted with a c bonhomie 
savante' : " (no translating that), "spiritual, deco- 
rative in the rarest taste, — strange and precious 
adaptation of Etruscan art, Flemish and 
Japanese, reaching, together with the perfect 
interpretation of nature, to incomparable chords 
of colour harmony. These powers are found 
in the work of the three, but Miss Greenaway, 
with a profound sentiment of love for children, 
puts the child alone on the scene, companions 
him in his own solitudes, and shows the in- 
fantine nature in all its naivete, its gaucherie, 
its touching grace, its shy alarm, its discoveries, 
ravishments, embarrassments, and victories ; 
the stumblings of it in wintry ways, the 
enchanted smiles of its spring time, and all the 
history of its fond heart and guiltless egoism. 

" From the honest but fierce laugh of the 
coarse Saxon, William Hogarth, to the delicious 
smile of Kate Greenaway, there has past a 
century and a half. Is it the same people 



146 The Art of England. 

which applauds to-day the sweet genius and 
tender malices of the one, and which applauded 
the bitter genius and slaughterous satire of the 
other ? After all, that is possible, — the hatred 
of vice is only another manifestation of the 
love of innocence." 

Thus far M. Chesneau — and I venture only 
to take up the admirable passage at a question 
I did not translate: "Ira-t-on au dela, fera- 
t-on mieux encore ? " — and to answer joyfully, 
Yes, if you choose ; you, the British public, 
to encourage the artist in doing the best she 
can for you. She will, if you will receive 
it when she does. 

I have brought with me to-day in the first 
place some examples of her pencil sketches 
in primary design. These in general the 
public cannot see, and these, as is always the 
case with the finest imaginative work, contain 
the best essence of it, — qualities never after- 
wards to be recovered, and expressed with 
the best of all sensitive instruments, the pencil 
point. 



IV, Mrs, Allingham and K, Greenaway, 147 

You have here, for consummate example, 

a dance of fairies under a mushroom, which 

she did under challenge to show me what 

fairies were like. " They'll be very like 

children," she said ; I answered that I didn't 

mind, and should like to see them, all the 

same ; — so here they are, with a dance, also, 

of two girlies, outside of a mushroom ; and 

I don't know whether the elfins or girls are 

fairyfootedest : and one or two more subjects, 

which you may find out; — but, in all, you 

will see that the line is ineffably tender and 

delicate, and can't in the least be represented 

by the lines of a woodcut. But I have long 

since shown you the power of line engraving 

as it was first used in Florence ; and if you 

choose, you may far recover the declining 

energies of line engraving in England, by 

encouraging its use in the multiplication, 

whether of these, or of Turner outlines, or 

of old Florentine silver point outlines, no 

otherwise to be possessed by you. I have 

given you one example of what is possible 

13 



148 The Art of England. 

in Mr. Rolfe's engraving of Ida; and, if all 
goes well, before the autumn fairy rings are 
traced, you shall see some fairy Idas caught 
flying. 

So far of pure outline. Next, for the en- 
richment of it by colour. Monsieur Chesneau 
doubts if the charm of Miss Greenaway's 
work can be carried farther. I answer, with 
security, — yes, very much farther, and that 
in two directions : first, in her own method 
of design; and secondly, the manner of its 
representation in printing. 

First, her own design has been greatly 
restricted by being too ornamental, or, in 
your modern phrase, decorative ; — contracted 
into any corner of a Christmas card, or 
stretched like an elastic band round the 
edges of an almanack. Now, her art is 
much too good to be used merely for illu- 
mination ; it is essentially and perfectly that 
of true colour-picture, and that the most naive 
and delightful manner of picture, because, on 
the simplest terms, it comes nearest reality. 



IV, Mrs, Allingham and K. Greenaway, 149 

No end of mischief has been done to modern 
art by the habit of running semi-pictorial 
illustration round the margins of ornamental 
volumes, and Miss Greenaway has been wasting 
her strength too sorrowfully in making the 
edges of her little birthday books, and the 
like, glitter with unregarded gold, whereas her 
power should be concentrated in the direct 
illustration of connected story, and her pic- 
tures should be made complete on the page, 
and far more realistic than decorative. There 
is no charm so enduring as that of the real 
representation of any given scene; her present 
designs are like living flowers flattened to 
go into an herbarium, and sometimes too 
pretty to be believed. We must ask her for 
more descriptive reality, for more convincing 
simplicity, and we must get her to organize 
a school of colourists by hand, who can abso- 
lutely facsimile her own first drawing. 

This is the second matter on which I have 
to insist. I bring with me to-day twelve of 
her original drawings, and have mounted 



150 The Art of England. 

beside them, good impressions of the pub- 
lished prints. 

I may heartily congratulate both the pub- 
lishers and possessors of the book on the 
excellence of these ; yet if you examine them 
closely, you will find that the colour blocks 
of the print sometimes slip a little aside, so 
as to lose the precision of the drawing in 
important places ; and in many other respects 
better can be done, in at least a certain 
number of chosen copies. I must not, how- 
ever, detain you to-day by entering into 
particulars in this matter. I am content to 
ask your sympathy in the endeavour, if I can 
prevail on the artist to undertake it. 

Only with respect to this and every other 
question of method in engraving, observe 
farther that all the drawings I bring you 
to-day agree in one thing, — minuteness and 
delicacy of touch carried to its utmost limit, 
visible in its perfectness to the eyes of youth, 
but neither executed with a magnifying glass, 
nor, except to aged eyes, needing one. Even 



IF, Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 151 

I, at sixty-four, can see the essential qualities 
of the work without spectacles ; though only 
the youngest of my friends here can see, for 
instance, Kate's fairy dance, perfectly, but they 
can, with their own bright eyes. 

And now please note this, for an entirely 
general law, again and again reiterated by 
me for many a year. All great art is 
delicate , and fine to the uttermost. Wherever 
there is blotting, or daubing, or dashing, there 
is weakness, at least ; probably, affectation ; 
certainly, bluntness of feeling. But, all deli- 
cacy which is rightly pleasing to the human 
mind is addressed to the unaided human 
sights not to microscopic help or mediation. 

And now generalize that law farther. As 
all noble sight is with the eyes that God 
has given you, so all noble motion is with 
the limbs God has balanced for you, and all 
noble strength with the arms He has knit. 
Though you should put electric coils into 
your high heels, and make spring-heeled 
Jacks and Gills of yourselves, you will never 



152 The Art of England. 

dance, so, as you could barefoot. Though 
you could have machines that would swing 
a ship of war into the sea, and drive a rail- 
way train through a rock, all divine strength 
is still the strength of Herakles, a man's 
wrestle, and a man's blow. 

There are two other points I must try to 
enforce in closing, very clearly. "Landscape," 
says M. Chesneau, "takes great part in these 
lovely designs." He does not say of what 
kind ; may I ask you to look, for yourselves, 
and think? 

There are no railroads in it, to carry 
the children away with, are there ? no tunnel 
or pit mouths to swallow them up, no league- 
long viaducts — no blinkered iron bridges ? 
There are only winding brooks, wooden foot- 
bridges, and grassy hills without any holes 
cut into them ! 

Again, — there are no parks, no gentle- 
men's seats with attached stables and offices ! 
— no rows of model lodging houses ! no 
charitable institutions ! ! It seems as if none 



IV, Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 153 

of these things which the English mind now 
rages after, possess any attraction whatever 
for this unimpressionable person. She is a 
graceful Gallio — Gallia gratia plena, and cares 
for none of those things. 

And more wonderful still, — there are no 
gasworks ! no waterworks, no mowing machines, 
no sewing machines, no telegraph poles, no 
vestige, in fact, of science, civilization, eco- 
nomical arrangements, or commercial enter- 
prise ! ! ! 

Would you wish me, with professorial 
authority, to advise her that her conceptions 
belong to the dark ages, and must be reared 
on a new foundation ? Or is it, on the other 
hand, recommendably conceivable by you^ that 
perhaps the world we truly live in may not 
be quite so changeable as you have thought 
it; — that all the gold and silver you can dig 
out of the earth are not worth the kingcups 
and the daisies she gave you of her grace ; 
and that all the fury, and the flutter, and 
the wonder, and the wistfulness, of your lives, 



154 The Art of England. 

will never discover for you any other than 
the ancient blessing : " He maketh me to lie 
down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside 
the still waters, He restoreth my soul " ? 

Yet one word more. Observe that what 
this unimpressionable person does draw, she 
draws as like it as she can. It is true that 
the combination or composition of things is 
not what you can see every day. You can't 
every day, for instance, see a baby thrown 
into a basket of roses ; but when she has 
once pleasantly invented that arrangement for 
you, baby is as like baby, and rose as like 
rose, as she can possibly draw them. And 
the beauty of them is in being like. They 
are blissful, just in the degree that they are 
natural ; and the fairyland she creates for 
you is not beyond the sky nor beneath the 
sea, but nigh you, even at your doors. She 
does but show you how to see it, and how 
to cherish. 

Long since I told you this great law of 
noble imagination, It does not create, it 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 155 

does not even adorn, it does but reveal^ the 
treasures to be possessed by the spirit. I 
told you this of the work of the great 
painter whom, in that day, everyone accused 
of representing only the fantastic and the 
impossible. I said forty years ago, and say 
at this instant, more solemnly, All his magic 
is in his truth. 

I show you, to-day, a beautiful copy 
made for me by Mr. Macdonald, of the 
drawing which, of all the Turners I gave 
you, I miss the most. I never thought it 
could have been copied at all, and have 
received from Mr. Macdonald, in this lovely 
rendering of it, as much a lesson as a con- 
solation. For my purpose to-day it is just 
as good as if I had brought the drawing 
itself. 

It is one of the Loire series, which the 
engravers could not attempt, because it was 
too lovely ; or would not attempt, because 
there was, to their notion, nothing in it. It 
is only a coteau, scarce a hundred feet above 

14 



156 The Art of England. 

the river, nothing like so high as the Thames 
banks between here and Reading, — only a 
coteau, and a recess of calm water, and a 
breath of mist, and a ray of sunset. The 
simplest things, the frequentest, the dearest; 
things that you may see any summer evening 
by a thousand thousand streams among the 
low hills of old familiar lands. Love them, 
and see them rightly, — Andes and Caucasus, 
Amazon and Indus, can give you no more. 

The danger imminent on you is the de- 
struction of what you have. I walked yesterday 
afternoon round St. John's gardens, and found 
them, as they always are in spring time, almost 
an ideal of earthly Paradise, — the St. John's 
students also disporting themselves therein in 
games preparatory to the advent of the true 
fairies of Commemoration. But, the afternoon 
before, I had walked down St. John's Road, 
and, on emerging therefrom to cross the 
railway, found on my left hand a piece of 
waste ground, extremely characteristic of that 
with which we now always adorn the suburbs 



IV. Mrs. Allingham and K. Greenaway. 157 

of our cities, and of which it can only be 
said that no demons could contrive, under the 
earth, a more uncomfortable and abominable 
place of misery for the condemned souls of 
dirty people, than Oxford thus allows the 
western light to shine upon — c nel aer dolce, 
che dal sol s'allegra.' For many a year I 
have now been telling you, and in the final 
words of this first course of lectures in which 
I have been permitted again to resume work 
among you, let me tell you yet once more, 
and if possible, more vehemently, that neither 
sound art, policy, nor religion, can exist in 
England, until, neglecting, if it must be, your 
own pleasure gardens and pleasure chambers, 
you resolve that the streets which are the 
habitation of the poor, and the fields which 
are the playgrounds of their children, shall 
be again restored to the rule of the spirits, 
whosoever they are in earth, and heaven, 
that ordain, and reward, with constant and 
conscious felicity, all that is decent and orderly, 
beautiful and pure. 



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